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H. ST. L. B. MOSS 


Oxford University Press, Amen House, London .6.4 


For copyright reasons this book may not be issued on loan 
or otherwise except in its original soft cover 


Reprinted lithographically in Great Britain by LOWE & 

BRYDONE, PRINTERS LTD., LONDON, from corrected sheets 

of the first edition 1937, 1945, 1947, 1950, 1957, 1961 



BETWEEN the ancient and the medieval worlds there lies a 
great gulf, bridged perhaps only, so far as the general reader 
is concerned, by the magnificent architecture of Gibbon's 
Decline and Fall Despite the intensive researches of recent years 
it would be idle to deny that the centuries known as the 'Dark 
Ages' still remain one of the obscurest stages in European his- 
tory. Yet progress is undoubtedly being made in the elucidation 
of many of the principal problems. Certain views have definitely 
been discarded. The Roman Empire, it is now seen, did not 
end with the capture of the Western capital or with the deposi- 
tion of Romulus Augustulus. The catastrophic explanation of 
the passing of the Roman world yields place, on further analysis, 
to a more reasoned theory of evolution. Justice is beginning to 
be done to the greatness of the Byzantine achievement, and to 
the true character of the civilization which continued the Roman 
tradition on the shores of the Bosphorus, The Islamic onslaught 
is no longer viewed through the eyes of medieval opponents, 
for whom its menace to their religion obscured the common 
origin of Christian and Mahometan culture. Critical study of 
the art and literature of this time has in many cases led to a more 
favourable estimate, and has undoubtedly deepened the sense 
of continuity between the old order and the new. The great 
figures of the age stand out more vividly than before, and the 
findings of archaeology, together with the recent interest in 
economic conditions, have produced for the imagination a more 
lively picture of the everyday existence of communities and 
individuals. In the following pages an attempt is made to 
present a brief outline of four centuries of European history 
viewed in the light of these results. 

The arbitrary nature of historical periods, which are actually, 
in certain respects, little more than a superior form of memoria 
technica, is sufficiently obvious to need no emphasis. Organic 
processes cannot be cleanly bisected with a stroke of the pen, 
and it is hardly to be expected that all forms of human activity 
should develop pan passu. Various dates have in consequence 
been given for the beginning of the Middle Ages, ranging from 

the third to the eighth century, and each has its justification, 
according to the importance attached to a particular aspect of 
European civilization. The year 395 has perhaps as good a 
claim as any to be regarded in this light, for the death of 
Theodosius the Great occurred at a moment of the most critical 
importance for Europe. For the last three years, Theodosius 
had ruled supreme over Roman territory. Henceforth there is 
to be separation of East and West, final in fact though not in 
theory. While he lived, Britain, Gaul, and Spain could be 
accounted integral parts of the Roman Empire; in less than 
a generation all three were in the hands of barbarian con- 
querors, and Rome itself had fallen a prey to the Visigoths. The 
warrior emperor, two of whose immediate predecessors had 
fallen in battle on the frontier, is succeeded by a line of puppet 
arulers, and the effective control of the Roman State passes for 
wellnigh a century into the hands of Masters of the Soldiers. 
Internally, less striking changes are observable. The barbarian 
inroads, though terrible enough, only accentuated the disorder 
and distress from which most of the Western provinces had 
suffered ever since the anarchy of the third century. The 
momentous reforms of Diocletian and Constantine, which ended 
this anarchy, were, to a large extent, only the fulfilment of 
tendencies already visible under the earlier Empire, for the close 
of the fourth century produced no real break in the system of 
Imperial government. They did but expressly recognize the 
fact that c the household of Caesar 9 had already superseded that 
constitutional executive which the Empire had inherited from 
the Roman Republic. One change, however, of greater impor- 
tance than any other for the future of Europe, was introduced 
by Constantine, when the Christian Church was admitted to 
a share in the government of the State. Here lies the watershed 
between two worlds. For the adoption of the new faith altered 
the cast of men's minds and determined the policy of their 
rulers. Only under Theodosius does the Roman Empire finally 
cease to hold the balance between Christian and Pagan, and 
thus only at this point do the full consequences of Constantine's 
revolutionary action begin to take effect. For this reason, if for 
no other, this survey may fitly take as its starting-point the 

death of Theodosius the Great, the founder of the Christian 

It should perhaps be stated that the sketch-maps and pictures 
included in this volume are intended to serve merely as eluci- 
dations of the text. References to some historical atlases and 
illustrated histories of early medieval art will be found in the 

I should like to express my gratitude to Prof. N. H. Baynes, 
for constant help and encouragement in the writing of this book, 
to Mr. E. L. Woodward, Prof. H. A. R. Gibb, Mr. R. Birley, 
and Mr. J. N. L. Myres for valuable criticism and suggestions, 
and to the officers of the Clarendon Press for their courtesy and 

August, I935 . H - ST - L - B ' M 



1. Peace and unity of civilized Europe inter-provincial 
trade commerce with Asia causes of uniformity in the 
Roman world contrast between East and West dangers 
to the Empire economic crisis reforms of Diocletian 
Christianity and paganism . . . i 

2. East and West fall apart after death of Theodosius but 
Empire still one and indivisible importance of this con- 
ception Constantinople the real centre decline of Rome 14 

3. Frontiers in 395 Britain and the Saxon invasions the 
Rhine frontier Gaul the Danube 'on Armenia and 

the Euphrates line Africa , . . .16 

4. The army changes during fourth century organization, 
arms, tactics superiority to barbarian troops disappears 
growth of personal retainers barbarian character of army 1 9 

5. Constitutional position of Emperor dynastic principle 
checks on absolutism administrative centralization 
corruption of governing machine the Senate ordo sena- 
torius stabilization of currency and prices taxation . 21 

6. Lower classes coloni land-system peasant risings trade 
and industry collegia . . . . .26 

7. Middle classes city life curiales extinction of curial 
class . . . . , . .28 

8. Upper classes life in country houses growth of 'house- 
economy' differing local conditions luxury and display 29 

9. Outlook of the age archaism in literature rhetoric 
Christian poetry transitional character of period . 3 1 

10. The Church political and racial basis of ecclesiastical 
rivalries unity as aim of Imperial policy doctrinal issues 
Arianism, Sabellianism in fourth century contest of 
Alexandria and Constantinople in fifth century rise of 
monasticism secular power of Church . . 33 


1. Sketch of invasions local and intermittent barbarian 
pressure on Roman frontiers crisis of mid-fourth century 

break-up of Western provinces . . -38 

2. Early Germany Baltic settlements West Germans East 
Germans Teutonic outlook and institutions gau, hun- 
dred folkmoot, chiefs army, methods of fighting social 
classes numbers of the invaders . . -39 


3. Visigoths from Baltic to Danube they enter the Empire 
battle of Adrianople Alaric and Stilicho Alaric 
invades Italy Visigoths settle in Spain and Aquitania 
conditions in Gaul . . . .44 

4. Vandals in Silesia they cross the Rhine conquest of 
Spain Gaiseric and the invasion of Africa . . 47 

5. Huns nomad steppe-culture permanent menace to 
Europe of Central Asian hordes strategic position of 
Attila's realm in Hungary the crisis, 450 battle of 
Troyes death of Attila, dissolution of Hunnish empire 

the maelstrom of the Danube region . . -50 

6. Ostrogoths on Danube Zeno and the two Theoderics 
invasion of Italy siege of Ravenna murder of Odoacer . 53 


i. Succession of puppet-emperors in the West magistri 
militum of fifth century the real power first period, 
Stilicho second period, Constantius third period, Ae'tius 
fourth period, Ricimer and his successors Romulus 
Augustulus . . . . . -57 

a. Empire in East survives contrast with the West 
the barbarian danger Alaric, Ga'inas, Aspar, the two 
Theoderics the Isaurian makeweight the danger 
averted . . . . . .60 

3. Kingdom of Clovis conquest of France baptism of 
Clovis common elements in the Romano-German king- 
doms hospitium character of monarchy legal prin- 
ciples ....... 62 

4. Life in France wergild social conditions agriculture, 
building, dress Sidonius Apollinaris his picture of 
southern France . . . . .66 

5. Kingdom of Theoderic dualistic principle of govern- 
ment measures of Theoderic education Boethius 
foreign policy the two periods end of reign . . 69 

6. The Church and the Barbarians Ulfilas German Arian- 
ism attitude towards Catholics of Frankish, Ostrogoth, 
Visigoth, and Vandal rulers Catholic intrigues in southern 
France Caesarius of Aries Avitus of Vienne and Bur- 
gundian kingdom fall of Burgundy Clovis and a national 
church Theoderic and the Papacy relations with Senate 

and Emperor . . . . . -73 



i . The Augusteum as centre of the city the Palace described 
pageant and ceremonial * . . -79 


2. The Hippodrome description Greens and Blues the 
NikaRiot . . . . . .80 

3. St. Sophia contemporary descriptions . . .85 

4. Architecture churches, cisterns, aqueducts, fortresses 
range of Byzantine influence origins of Byzantine Art 
'Orient oder Rom* Hellenistic idealism, Semitic realism 

the Asiatic element . . . . .86 

5. Trade and commerce routes to the Far East contact 
\vith Ceylon, China Cosmas the Geographer Persia and 

the silk trade the Red Sea commerce . . .89 

6. Social Life an impression of the streets religious atmo- 
sphere Byzantium a beleaguered city . . -92 


1. Appearance and character of Justinian basis of his 
policy ....... 95 

2. Theodora character influence on affairs of state . 96 

3. Vandal War nature of fighting rapid initial success, 
followed by setbacks and long struggle results of conquest 97 

4. Gothic War Ostrogoth politics attitude of Ostrogoth 
leaders to Byzantium Belisarius his limitations, external 
and internal his successes siege of Rome capture of 
Ravenna Ostrogoth rebellion struggle continued 
Narses sent to Italy final victory Pragmatic Sanction . 100 

5. Conditions in Italy decay of Rome general apathy 
Benedict and his monastic rule general results of Justin- 
ian's activities in the West . . . - 105 


x. Defensive policy, as contrasted with offensive in West 
stability and solvency the aims reforms in provincial 
administration failure to end corruption . .108 

2. Uniformity and permanence in legislation the Code 

the Institutes influence on Western law . .no 

3. Attitude towards Church Caesaropapism unity of East 
and West the object treatment of heretics largely deter- 
mined by policy Manichees and Pagans different treat- 
ment of Monophysites periods of Monophysite ascen- 
dancy relations with Papacy the 'Three Chapters' con- 
troversy failure of efforts to promote religious unity . 112 

4. Byzantine diplomacy its methods in Arabia ruse of 
missions honours and titles for barbarian chieftains 
welcome to political exiles and pretenders. . .116 

5. The Eastern frontier Rome and Persia, the two world- 
powers the frontier described Crimea, Colchis, Lazica, 
Iberia Armenia the Euphrates line, its disadvantages 
general principles of the Eastern frontier . . .118 


6. Persian Wars Justin's aggression Chosroes the new 
emperor Persian successes relative position of the two 
empires unchanged equipoise not finally destroyed until 
entry of Islam ...... 122 

7. End of reign bankruptcy of Empire miseries of the 
capital the aged Justinian . . . -123 


1. The Lombards Alboin invades Italy his death followed 
by kingless period its results on Lombard history 
Lombard attitude towards Italians Authari reasserts 
central power . . . - 125 

2. Byzantine Italy military and feudal aspect centraliza- 
tion of government Greek influence and culture 
weakness of Byzantine rule growth of I talian patriotism . 128 

3. The Church in Italygrowth of Papal estates letters of 
Gregory the Great as evidence influence of Gregory 
largely personal his attempts to control the West his 
resistance to claims of Emperor and Patriarch at Byzan- 
tium his character a figure of the transition period . 131 

4. Successors of Justinian Justin II his aggressive policy 
Tiberius more cautious success of Maurice his murder 
Phocas Empire in danger its territory narrowed to 
Byzantium and surrounding districts . . .136 

5. Heraclius preparations for Persian War teforms in 
army and administration--patriotic enthusiasm in the 
capital strategy of Heraclius 626, the decisive year 
siege of Byzantium by Avars and Persians Heraclius 
invades Persia end of the last Persian war concluding 
triumph of the ancient world . . . .138 



1. Introductory three stages of Islam faith, conquest, cul- 
ture traditional misconceptions concerning these . 143 

2. Arabia physical conditions nomads and town-dwellers 
agriculture, trade, tribalism primitive religion sanc- 
tuaries ....... 144 

3. Mahomet early teaching Hegira supremacy of Medina 
religious aspect becomes subordinate to racial domi- 
nance . . . . . . ,146 


i. Expansion of Islam weakness of Byzantine and Persian 
resistance reasons for this disaffection of Jews and 


Monophysites invasion of Syria of Iraq Asiatic con- 
quests ....... 149 

2. Invasion of Egypt of North Africa . . 153 

3. Invasion of Spain Battle of Tours . . 155 

4. Menace to Constantinople more serious than the pressure 
of the other (Western) extremity of the Moslem crescent 
Siege of Constantinople, 7 1 7 repulse of Islam . 157 


1. The central power Umayyads Damascus replaces 
Medina as capital downfall of Umayyad House Ab- 
basid dynasty changes in character of Moslem Empire 
independence of provinces Spain, Africa^ Egypt spiri- 
tual supremacy of Caliphate . . . .159 

2. Administration system arid principles of taxation Islam 
inherits the legacy Of former empires, Rome and Persia 
limits of absolutism viziers divans espionage system . 163 

3. Social classes relations of conquerors to non-Arabs and 
Christians fanaticism mutual influence of Islam and the 
older civilizations trade with Africa India the Far 
East the Mediterranean South Russia pilgrimage- 
routes and luxury-loving rulers as factors in growth of 
commerce ...... 165 

4. Literature the Koran as basis evolution of dogma and 
legal conceptions influence of Greek philosophy and 
science medicine, geography, belles lettres. . 169 

5. Islamic Art a fusion of various traditional styles origins 
religious and political causes for flowering of artistic 
activity great periods of conquest or material prosperity 
produce mosques and palaces of Baghdad, Cairo, North 
Africa, Spain influence of indigenous cultures and tradi- 
tions of conquered peoples varieties of the minaret as 
example general characteristics of Islamic art forma- 
lism, abstraction, mysticism . . . .170 


1. Anglo-Saxon Invasions geographical factors Saxon 
kingdoms successive supremacy of Northumbria, Mercia, 
and Wessex end of Roman Britain later Saxon 
developments . . . . . . 175 

2. The Slavonic Flood Slavs in Tolesie' slow expansion 
Avar dominion forces the pace dissolution of Avar 
Empire formation of Slavonic states . . . 181 


3. Byzantium and the Mediterranean Byzantium in decline 
revival under Leo the Isaurian administrative reforms 
Church and State Iconoclast struggle victory of the 
Mediterranean tradition repercussions in the West . 187 


1. The conquest completed unity of 'Regnum Francorum* 
despite periodic divisions limits of Frankish success 
eastward expansion (Franconia) . . . . 193 

2. Civil war lawless conditions Brunhilda and Chilperic* . 195 

3. Revival of Meroving rule weakness of central power 
independence of nobility and Church autonomy of 
Austrasia and Burgundy process arrested by Dagobert 

ten years of resolute government . . . 197 

4. Rise of the Mayors decline of Merovings Grimoald 
fails to establish himself Ebroin more successful Pipin 

III at battle of Tertry founds fortunes of Caroling dynasty . 1 98 

5. The Path to Rome influence of the Papacy in France 
alliance of Pope and Carolings .... 200 

6. Manners in Gaul fusion of German and Latin cultures 
contrasted principles personal basis of Frankish organiza- 
tion beginnings of feudalism immunities towns and 
villages architecture language superstitions . .202 


i . England and Germany Papacy and German kingdoms 
obstacles to expansion of Papal authority Augustine and 
the mission to England the Roman system triumphs in 
England organization of English Church Anglo-Saxon 
missions to Germany Boniface his loyalty to Rome 
his assistance to the Carolings his part in the alliance of 
these two powers ..... 207 

2. The Italian Balance of Power Lombard settlement in 
Italy Lombards become Romanized their culture 
Italy, A.D. 600-800 the five conflicting interests Italian 
politics Frankish conquest the balance of power upset 
Frankish supremacy . . . . .210 


1. Christmas, A.D. 800 meaning of the Coronation Charle- 
magne's position in regard to the Papacy and Byzantium . 222 

2. Wars and Frontiers Saxon wars border marches 
destruction of Avars Roncesvalles . . .224 

3. Internal Government Germanic character of Charle- 
magne's administration personal service army missi 
dominici Theodulf *s description of Provence a Carolin- 
gian assize ...... 230 


4. Art and Letters character of Charlemagne Carolingian 
education, artj literature lifeatAix . . . 235 

5. Dissolution of the Empire defects of Charlemagne's 
policy its sequel break-up of the Empire . . 239 


Changes wrought by four centuries racial movements 
commerce and industry breakdown of government, 
communications, and trade agriculture, a steady progress 
contrasted systems of Mediterranean and North-Western 
Europe social classes German' 'freedom 9 political 
thought views of sovereignty, absolute and responsible 
theocratic cast of early medieval government the 
cultural transformation art literature changes in lan- 
guage, Greek and Roman religion symbolism atti- 
tude of Church to pagan culture superstition pagan 
survivals conclusion ..... 242 


A. The Imperial Machine .... 266 

B. i. Money Economy and Natural Economy . 270 
ii. The Iconoclast Argument . . .270 
iii. The Threefold Division of Medieval Society . 271 
iv. Reason versus Dogma . . .271 
v. Ireland and the Preservation of Classical 

Learning ..... 272 
vi. The Three Chapters . , . 272 



BIBLIOGRAPHY. . . . . .283 

INDEX ....... 288 


I. "The Sasanid triumph, assiduously placarded in rock-carving 
and fresco.' (page 7.) 

Relief at Naksh-i-Rustam. Third century A.D. The Emperor 
Valerian kneeling before Shapur I, (Photograph by Professor Dr. 
Friedrich Sarre) . .... Facing page 7 

II. a. Capitals from the crypt of St. Laurent, Grenoble. Sixth or 
seventh century. (Photograph, Archives Photo., Paris.) 

The crude workmanship of these is as noticeable as the dependence on Roman 
and Byzantine models. Cf. R. de Lasteyrie, V Architecture religieusc en France 
a Vepoque romane, p. 101. (Paris, 1912.) 

b. Torhalle, Lorsch. Rhineland, eighth or ninth century. (Photo- 
graph, Staatliche Bildstelle, Berlin.) 

This building, which appears to have formed the entrance porch to the 
atrium of the abbey church, has been assigned by most critics to the eighth or 
early ninth century. The elegant design and the successful assimilation of 
classical influences indicate the advance made by Frankish architecture at this 
period. R. de Lasteyrie (op. cit., pp. 167-70) is unable to accept it as being 
earlier than 1090, but it may reasonably be held that Carolingian work at Aix 
and elsewhere provides parallels for many of its features. 

Facing page 67 

III. 'Eastern influence . . . with its stylized animal forms, its dark 
glowing jewels or glass cubes set in gold filigree.' (page 68.) 

a. Plaque with animal-ornament in Scythian style from Ordos, 
N. Asia. Second century B.C. 

b. Cloisonne jewellery of Gothic type from Kerch, Crimea. Fourth 
or fifth century A.D. 

c. Cloisonne brooch from Lombardic grave, Belluno, N. Italy. 
Sixth century A.D. 

d. Cloisonne brooch, probably from the Rhineland. Frankish, 
sixth century A.D. 

e. Examples of early Anglo-Saxon animal-ornament from S.E. 
England. Sixth century A.D. 

(All from British Museum.) 

This series is intended to illustrate the *nomad influence' on the barbarian 
art of Europe an influence which is also perceptible among the origins of 
the Byzantine style (cf. p. 88). The range of the 'animal-ornament* can be 
traced from the borders of China to the shores of England and Scandinavia, 
while the cloisonne technique acquired in the Crimean region a corridor 
between Europe and Asia is continued by the Teutonic invaders in their 
western homes. The sources and cross-currents of these streams of influence 
are still obscure. For further reference, cf. E. H. Minns, Scythians and Greeks 
(Cambridge, 1925), M. Rostovtzeff, Iranians and Greeks in South Russia (Oxford, 


1922), G. Borovka, Scythian Art (London, 1928), J. Strzygowski, Altai-Iran und 
Volkerwanderungm (Leipzig, 19/7), and B. Salin, Die altgermanischt TTiierorna- 
mentik (Stockholm, 1904). 

Facing page 68 

IV. 'Alexandria, the centre of Hellenistic traditions of modelling, 
ornament, and ideal presentation of the human form . . . Antioch, 
representative of the realistic Semitic style.' (page 87.) 

a. Adoration of the Magi. Syrian work, sixth century A.D. (British 

b. Diptych of the Symmachi. Alexandrian school, fourth or fifth 
century A.D. (Victoria and Albert Museum. Cf. O. M. Dalton, East 
Christian Art (Oxford, 1925), and see Bibliography.) Facing page 87 

V. 'Byzantine mosaic. . . . [was] extensively used in the decoration 
of the Mosques, and there is hardly a feature of structure or 
ornament which cannot be traced to earlier tradition.* (page 172.) 

a. Mosaic from Great Mosque, Damascus, c. A.D. 715. (Photo- 
graph, de Lorey. For full description, see K. A. G. Creswell, Early 
Muslim Architecture) pp. 239-52. (Oxford, 1932.)) 

3. Mschatta. Detail of Relief. Eighth century A.D. (Kaiser Fried- 
rich Museum, Berlin.) 

The palace of Mschatta lies to the east of the Jordan, on the pilgrim-road 
between Mecca and Damascus. Dates ranging from the third to the tenth 
century have been assigned to it Though the question is by no means 
finally settled, the balance of opinion seems in favour of an eighth-century date. 
(Cf .Creswell, op. cit., pp. 390 ff.,for discussion and tabulation of the various 
views.) The relief, in any case, shows strikingly the Syrian amalgam of Meso- 
potamian, Persian, and Hellenistic influences which contributed to form the 
characteristics of Byzantine and Islamic decoration, and which during these 
centuries penetrated far into Western Europe (cf. plate facing p. 236). 

Facing page 170 

VI. *An interesting example of regional influence is the minaret 
in its various forms.' (page 172.) 

a. Samarra, Mesopotamia. (From F. Sarre and E. E. Herzfeld, 
Archaologische Reise im Euphrat- und Tigris-Gebiet, vol. iii (Dietrich 
Reimer (E.Vohsen), Berlin).) 

b. Kairawan, N. Africa. (Photograph by Sir Alan Cobham.) 

c. Mosque of Al-Juyushi, Cairo. (From M. S. Briggs, Muhammadan 
Architecture in Egypt and Palestine (Clarendon Press).) 

d. Arbil, Iraq. (From Sarre and Herzfeld, op. cit., vol. iv.) 

e. Mosque of Muhafiz Khan, Ahmedabad, India. (From Burgess, 
A. S. Report, Western India, vol. vii.) 

f. St. Sophia, Constantinople. 

(For the architectural origin of the minaret, see K. A. C. Creswell, 
Burlington Magazine, xlviii, pp. 139 ff.) Facing page 171 


VII. 'Hieratic sculptured scenes, superior in plastic feeling to any 
contemporary continental work.' (page 236.) 

Bewcastle Cross, Cumberland. Detail from E. face (late seventh 

century). (Photograph, Gibson.) 

For discussion of the date and characteristics of this monument, see A. W. 
Clapham, English Romanesque Architecture before the 'Conquest (Oxford, 1930), 
G, Baldwin Brown, The Arts in Early England^ vol. 5 (London, 1921), J. Br0nd- 
sted, Early English Ornament (Eng. tr. London, 1924), and W. G.-Gollingwood, 
Northumbrian Crosses ofthepre-NormanAge (London, 1927), who assigns it to the 
middle of the eighth century. 

Facing page 236 

VIII. "The change irom ancient to medieval.' (page 252.) 

a. Trajanic relief from Forum f'Anaglypha Trajani'). c. A.D. 101. 
(Photograph, Anderson.) 

The scene is probably a proclamation in the Forum by the Emperor Trajan 
in connexion with measures taken for the relief of poor children. 
Cf. E. Strong, Roman Sculpture, pp. 151-7 (London, 1907). 

b. Relief from N. facade, Arch of Constantine, c. A.D. 315. (From 
The Papers of the British School at Rome, vol. iv.) 

The Emperor Constantine, standing on the rostra of the Forum, harangues 
the people. The similarity of subject, and the architectural background 
used in either case, serve to emphasize the contrast between these two friezes. 
Cf. E. Strong, op. cit., pp. 332 ff. 

Facing page 253 


1. The Roman Empire 4th Century A.D. , . . .22 

2. The Barbarian Invasions . . . . -43 

3. Conquests of Justinian, a. Roman Empire in 526; b. Roman 

Empire 553-600 . . . . . .98 

4. The Eastern Frontier . . . . . .119 

5. The Islamic World . . . . . .152 

6. Anglo-Saxon England . . . . . .176 

7. Expansion of the Slavs . . . . .185 

8. Merovingian France, a. 511-61; b. 568 . . .194 

9. Italy, 7th-8th Centuries '. . '. . .213 
10. Empire of Charlemagne ..... 225 



rr-iHOUGHTS of Imperial Rome conjure up to the mind's eye a 
-L picture of war and conquest, of legions marching under the 
victorious eagle to the subjugation of distant peoples. Yet the real 
fact which characterizes the first two centuries of the Christian 
era is the deep peace which descended upon the whole Mediter- 
ranean area, and enveloped the greater part of Central and 
Western Europe. By the time of Augustus the Empire had ex- 
panded practically to its fullest extent, 1 and the work of his suc- 
cessors was mainly a work of consolidation. Within the great 
fortified barriers of Rhine, Danube, and Euphrates, a network of 
roads covered the vast territories of Rome, from the borders of 
Scotland to the Arabian deserts. Along these roads passed an 
ever-increasing traffic, not only of troops and officials, but of 
traders, merchandise, and even tourists. An interchange of goods 
between the various provinces rapidly developed, which soon 
reached a scale unprecedented in previous history, and not re- 
peated until a few centuries ago. Metals mined in the uplands of 
Western Europe, hides, fleeces, and live-stock from the pastoral 
districts of Britain, Spain, and the shores of the Black Sea, wine 
and oil from Provence and Aquitaine, timber, pitch, and wax 
from South Russia and northern Anatolia, dried fruits from Syria, 
marble from the Aegean coasts, and most important of all 
grain from the corn-growing districts of North Africa, Egypt, and 
the Danube valley for the needs of the great cities; all these com- 
modities, under the influence of a highly organized system of 
transport and marketing, moved freely from one corner of the 
Empire to the other. 

The manufacture of articles for wholesale export received also 
a great stimulus, and flourishing industries developed in almost 

1 With a few important exceptions, e.g. Britain, and the districts north of the 
Danube and east of the Upper Euphrates. 


every province. Commerce and banking had been intensively 
carried on for centuries in the Hellenistic world, and the eastern 
end of the Mediterranean was the first to profit by the new order. 
Broadly speaking, these Eastern provinces were the region of 
industry and manufacture; the West was the great storehouse of 
raw materials. Thus from Damascus, Antioch, and Alexandria 
came blankets, tapestry and rugs, linen, pottery of the finest sort, 
glass, both cheap and expensive, jewellery, perfumes and cos- 
metics. During the first two centuries, however, a westward move- 
ment of industry can be observed. Fortunes were being made in 
the corn-lands and ore-producing districts of Gaul, Spain, Italy, 
and Africa, and to satisfy the demands of a wealthy and luxurious 
class Greeks, Egyptians, and Syrians crowded to the West to 
exercise their skill as doctors, artists, teachers, musicians, or silver- 
smiths. The Syrians, in particular, were the supreme traders of 
this time; as single adventurers or in merchant communities they 
are found all over Europe, in the cities of Africa and Spain, or 
thickly clustered along the trade routes of the Po valley and the 
Rhineland. Even in the fifth century, Jerome bitterly observes 
them carrying on their gainful traffic amid the ruins of a falling 
world. The advance of industry is shown in more direct fashion 
by the appearance in the West of factories of considerable size, 
pottery and glass centres, for instance, in middle and southern 
France, in the Rhine valley, or in Britain, where the mass- 
produced article either killed or else drove into other channels 
the individual fancy of Celtic design. 

Nor was trade limited by the boundaries of the Empire. The 
frontiers in this respect were not a dividing barrier, but rather 
a line of outpost settlements, joining the termini of the Roman 
road system, which furnished markets for the barbarians beyond. 
Horse-trappings and jewellery, coins and pottery, household 
ornaments and agricultural implements, bartered against slaves, 
amber, or hides, passed from the Gallo-Roman workshops over 
the Rhine and far into central Germany, finding their way into 
the strongholds of chieftains in Denmark or South Sweden. 
Roman merchant vessels put in at Irish ports, or roved south- 
wards down the forested coast-line of West Africa. The Eastern 
traffic held even more romantic possibilities. The Red Sea, con- 


nected with Alexandria by a harbour, a canal, and a carefully 
policed caravan road, equipped with storage depots and water 
reservoirs, was the terminus of several great shipping routes. One 
led down past Abyssinia and Somaliland as far as Uganda, south 
of which the Arab trader retained his monopoly. Ivory, tortoise- 
shell, and negro slaves from the interior were collected in return 
for gaily coloured cloths and glass, axes, brass and copper orna- 
ments. The south-west corner of Arabia exported incense and 
spices to the West, and handled, in addition, the products of India 
and China, such as cotton, silk, teak, ebony, and sandal-wood, 
which were unloaded also at the Red Sea ports and the harbours 
at the head of the Persian Gulf, travelling thence by caravan and 
arriving finally at Alexandria, or at one of the great Syrian com- 
mercial centres, such as Damascus or Antioch. The use of the 
monsoons, however, had recently been discovered, and direct 
trade with India, eliminating the Arab middleman, was soon 
financed on a large scale by Alexandrian and Syrian merchants. 
At one Red Sea port Strabo was informed that no less than 120 
vessels a year sailed for India, and other sources tell of the colonies 
of foreign merchants settled in the coastal cities of Malabar, of 
the magnificent harbours of South India and Ceylon, with their 
lighthouse system and pilot services, their spacious warehouses 
and wharves, and of the arrival of the Roman argosies, 1 discharg- 
ing their cargoes of singing-boys and maidens destined for the 
harems of Indian princes, their silver vessels and bright linens, 
their Mediterranean wines and their stores of Imperial gold 
pieces, in payment for the huge sacks of pepper, the heavy cotton- 
bales, the diamonds, pearls, beryls, drugs, and perfumes which 
they carried back to the Western world. Gradually the merchants 
sailed farther eastwards; the Ganges estuary and the Malay 
Peninsula became known, and about A.D. 160 traders from the 
Roman Empire established connexion with the Chinese ports. 
But the great days of Roman commerce were now over; centuries 
of disorder were in prospect for Europe, and the possibilities of 
Chinese influence on our civilization were never realized. 
Ease of communication and ready exchange of commodities 

1 Manned by *Roman' subjects, in the eyes of their Indian observers, but Syrian 
or Egyptian, probably, by race. 


did much to promote unity, and even uniformity, in the Roman 
Empire. A common standard of life was shared by the majority 
of its inhabitants; lamps, drinking- vessels, heating arrangements, 
interior decoration differed but little in the villas of southern 
England and those of Algiers. The gold denarius commanded 
equal confidence in the Rhineland, the Crimea, or the Cingalese 
bazaars. Language became standardized, Latin prevailing in the 
West, and Greek in the East; in many districts the indigenous 
speech wholly disappeared. The common institutions under 
which they lived furnished another bond of union between the 
peoples of the Empire, for the government of the various pro- 
vinces, though adaptable to local conditions, was essentially a 
single system, directed from the centre, a system, moreover, which 
tended towards increasing uniformity and the elimination of 
anomalies. Thus in A.D. 212, by a decree of Caracalla, the 
majority of the Emperor's subjects became Roman citizens, and 
the inferior status of the 'provincial' disappeared. The adminis- 
tration of Italy herself, though she long retained certain privileges 
as regards taxation, was eventually assimilated to that of the 
provinces, and her pride of place in the West, already challenged 
by Gaul, Africa, and Spain in the fields of literature and com- 
merce, suffered still more from this humiliation. These are ]put 
two instances of a far-reaching development. As the dangers to 
the Empire increased, so her statesmen redoubled their efforts to 
preserve the tottering edifice by rendering it a homogeneous 
structure, clamping it together with the iron logic of legal codes 
and tyrannical enactments, careless of over-rigidity or suppres- 
sion of living stress and counter-stress, and concerned only to 
produce the stability of a solid and undifferentiated block of 

Vulnerable points in the Imperial system were discovered, not 
created, by the strains and perils of its later centuries. Modern 
analogies to the social and economic conditions of the ancient 
world are often misleading, for they tend to obscure the more 
primitive aspects of its civilization. Judged by present-day 
standards, the population of Europe at this time was extremely 
small; that of the Roman Empire has been estimated at not 
more than a quarter of the numbers now inhabiting the countries 


in question. Its distribution was extraordinarily unequal, the 
Eastern half being preponderant not only in the density of its 
inhabitants but in its level of wealth and culture. No town in the 
West, with the exception of Rome and Carthage, could compare 
with the splendid cities, many of them with a population of over 
100,000, which flourished in Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt. The 
last-named province, despite its small size, furnished something 
approaching one-seventh of the whole numbers of the Empire, 
and the greater part of the revenues was suppliedHby the countries 
bordering on the eastern Mediterranean. On the other hand, the 
total population of the Roman Empire, after three centuries of 
existence, had become definitely smaller. Italy and Greece, in 
particular, had suffered, and large tracts of Gaul lay desolate, 
owing to the ravages of plague and civil war. The cultural in- 
fluence of Rome was exercised unevenly upon the West. Roman 
roads, like the modern by-pass or arterial way, left untouched 
large districts in the interstices of their network, where the lan- 
guage and customs of the natives were barely affected by those of 
their conquerors. Especially was this so in the regions of the 
north and west, where tribes of shepherds and primitive agricul- 
turists, thinly scattered amid marsh and forest, did not repay 
fiscal and commercial exploitation, as did the intensively culti- 
vated Mediterranean area. Further, the Roman influence was 
diluted in proportion as it approached the confines of the Empire. 
The frontiers themselves were becoming blurred. German princes 
beyond the Rhine absorbed Roman culture; masses of barbarians 
were allowed to settle upon Roman territory in eastern Gaul and 
the regions south of the Danube. There were even Roman citizens 
under the later Empire who preferred to dwell at the court of 
some foreign ruler rather than fece the increasing demands of the 
Imperial tax-collector. 

Even in the East, where for three centuries before Rome's 
arrival the Hellenistic kingdoms which grew out of the con- 
quests of Alexander had been spreading the ideals of Greek city 
life, national traditions only lay dormant, waiting for the hour 
of liberation to strike. The Greeks formed only a tiny minority 
in Syria and Egypt, where their superiority in culture, not in 
numbers, had given them the advantage. Older civilizations u* 

T) THE ROMAN WORLD lands, though temporarily submerged, retained their vita- 
lity, and the growth of Coptic and Syriac literatures, stimulated 
by the rise of Christian churches, which became a mouthpiece 
for separatist and local sentiment, fostered a consciousness of 
alienation from their foreign conquerors, and intensified the 
bitter opposition to Imperial policy and taxation. The final loss 
of these provinces was due in great part to such internal causes; 
Persian and Moslem invaders of the seventh century found 
support in many disaffected quarters of these regions. In Asia 
Minor, only the seaboard fringes were truly Hellenized; but 
the mountainous interior, haunt of brigands and principal 
recruiting-ground for the later Roman army, possessed no cul- 
tural traditions which could serve as a focus of discontent, and 
Byzantium in consequence retained her grasp upon the whole 
peninsula until far into medieval times. 

The successive shocks which the civilized area of Europe had 
received since the close of the first century revealed the insecurity 
of the Imperial structure. The reign of Marcus Aurelius ( 1 6 1-80) 
witnessed the turning of the tide of Roman prosperity, and the 
end of the Antonine house was followed by a century of disorder 
in which the central power wavered, passing rapidly from one 
short-lived emperor to another, made and unmade by their capri- 
cious or covetous legions. Military absolutism appeared^ effacing 
the last vestiges of the fictitious 'diarchy' of Augustus. The in- 
fluence of the armies increased as the need for them became 
greater. The frontiers were threatened unceasingly; Germanic 
tribes from the Low Countries to the Danube mouth pressed 
against the restraining barriers, and Saxon pirates in the Channel 
had their counterpart in the Gothic sea-raiders of the Black Sea and 
northern Aegean coasts. A fresh peril arose in the East when the 
Parthian rulers of Persia were replaced by the aggressive Sasanid 
house (227). The Euphrates line now demanded constant re- 
inforcements, and the Roman Empire, with its insufficient troops, 
was henceforth condemned to struggle with the problem of a 
double front. After a lapse of nearly six centuries Persia renewed 
her attempts, crushed by the victorious advance of Alexander the 
Great, to regain the sovereignty of western Asia. The Great King 
of the days of Marathon appeared once more, claiming equality 



of status with the other world-ruler at Rome. More than once 
during the third century the Persian horsemen swept through 
Syria almost to the Aegean, threatening the commerce of one of 
the richest provinces. A climax was reached in the disastrous 
campaign of 260, when Valerian, a Roman Emperor, was taken 
prisoner by the Persian monarch. It is probable that Rome's 
prestige in the Near East never recovered from this blow. The 
Sasanid triumph, assiduously placarded in rock-sculpture and 
fresco, 1 must have spread like wildfire through the cities of that 
great caravan- world, stretching from the eastern Mediterranean 
to the Persian Gulf, whose strange mixture of cosmopolitan 
luxury and desert squalor, commercial interests, brigandage, and 
fiery fanaticism shaped, a few centuries later, the career of Maho- 
met and the progress of Islam. The mighty power of Rome, 
which had paved with stone blocks the desert-routes, garrisoned 
the oasis fortresses, and extended its sphere of influence ever 
farther along the traffic-lines of camel-borne merchandise from 
India and the Far East, was now fighting on equal terms with the 
Iranian forces, and maintaining with increased difficulty its 
traditional frontier. 2 Significant of Rome's weakness was the 
sudden rise of the short-lived empire of Palmyra, based on the 
caravan trade, which maintained a brief but glorious indepen- 
dence until its queen, Zenobia, was overthrown by Aurelian. A 
similar phenomenon was taking place in the West, where the 
Gallic provinces, which had revolted from the central power, 
offered a successful resistance for over ten years. Even Italy her- 
self was in danger of barbarian invasion; Aurelian's great walls, 
which still encircle Rome, indicate, like those of other Italian 
towns rebuilt at this time, the coming transformation of the open 
cities of the ancient world into the moated and turreted strong- 
holds of the Middle Ages. 3 

The economic crisis of the Empire reached its height during 

1 Gf. Excavations at Dvra-Europos, 4th season (Newhaven, 1933), pp. 182-99, and 
the reliefs still visible at Naksh-i-Rustam. See Plate I. 

2 For the subsequent history of the Euphrates frontier, see below, pp. 1 18 ff. 

3 Walled towns were, of course, no novelty; but the security given by the Pax 
Romana and the development of communications under the early Empire minimized 
the need for fortification and encouraged the spread of suburbs along the main 
roads. The contrast in appearance between the ancient and medieval cities of 
Western Europe must have been very striking. 


these years, and the need for precious metal to provide donatives 
for the legions, on whose purchased loyalty the power of the 
Emperor depended, coincided with a disastrous shortage of gold 
and silver ore, and a precipitous fall in the revenues obtained 
from taxation. The balance of trade during the first two cen- 
turies A.D. had probably been in favour of the exporting countries 
of Asia, and indications exist, though exact assessment is not 
possible, of an eastward drain of specie from the Roman Empire. 
More serious, perhaps, was the falling-off in the production of 
the European mines. A marked deterioration of the currency is 
noticeable at this time. Gold vanished from circulation, and the 
silver of earlier days became little more than a thinly washed 
copper coin. Despite the debasement, prices retained a certain 
stability, apart from a considerable rise due to the decreased 
bullion- value of the denarius, until the reign of Gallienus (253-68) . 
A period of extreme inflation now set in. Under Aurelian the 
price of wheat in Egypt soared to dizzy heights, followed at some 
distance by the rate of wages. Banks closed, and were com- 
manded to reopen; speculation in currency was rife. Trade with 
the East, which had been based on a gold coinage of full weight 
and purity, was seriously affected, and showed no real revival 
until the days of Justinian, though the Mediterranean traffic still 
continued with much of its former intensity. 

One of the first tasks, in Diocletian's great reorganization of 
the Empire, was the restoration of a gold and silver coinage, 
which was carried out more successfully than his subsequent 
attempts to control by edict the market-price of foodstuffs. How 
far he can be said to have checked the transition from the 'money' 
economy of the early Empire to the 'natural' economy of the 
Middle Ages 1 is a question probably impossible to answer. The 
army and civil service, both meagrely paid, had always main- 
tained themselves largely from other sources the provision of 
quarters and rations, transport and other services was exacted 
by the soldiers, and fees, douceurs, travelling facilities and free 
lodging by the officials. To what extent these were estimated in 
currency values it is difficult to determine, but the system re- 
mained in force under Diocletian and Constantine, and the finan- 

1 See Appendix B. 


cial machinery which they created was, in essence, merely a 
legalization of such semi-regular practices. 

It is no derogation of the magnificent services of these two men, 
whose work saved the Empire from imminent dissolution,. to hold 
that their reorganization was in fact a realist acceptance of the 
actual situation, rather than the creation of a new model of 
government. Changes in the army had already been made by 
former rulers; the sharp distinction of the frontier troops, which 
had steadily deteriorated into a militia of settled farmers, from 
the field army of picked fighting men is only a recognition of the 
needs of the time. A mobile striking force, capable of being 
thrown at short notice into any outlying province, would at least 
serve to expel barbarian raiders whose entry the frontier garrisons 
had been unable to prevent. The weakness of the central power 
is acknowledged by the decentralization of provincial govern- 
ment, smaller units being created in the interests of efficiency, 
while the position of the emperor himself, degraded of late by 
dependence on legionary caprice, is raised high above all sectional 
interests by the accentuation of his semi-divine status, already 
foreshadowed by former emperors, and its expression in elaborate 
court ceremonial, influenced, perhaps, by Persian example. Even 
the foundation of Constantinople, which marks, indeed, the 
beginning of a new era, may, in another aspect, be regarded 
simply as a full confession of the fact that the city of Rome was no 
longer the centre of the Empire. 

One startling innovation, however, was destined to alter the 
whole basis of the Roman state the transformation of Christi- 
anity, by Constantine's action, from the position of a proscribed 
religion to that of the honoured faith of the Imperial house. 
Three centuries of development, in dogma, administration, and 
geographical extension, lay behind it by this time. It numbered 
several millions of adherents, far the greater part of whom be- 
longed to the eastern provinces, though the activities, noted 
above, of Greeks and Syrians in Western Europe had carried the 
new teaching into the commercial centres of these regions. The 
first primitive communities had long been replaced by the begin- 
nings of an ecclesiastical hierarchy, for which the civil machinery 
of Roman provincial government provided the model, while the 


political and economic importance of the metropolitan cities 
determined, to some extent, the authority enjoyed by the bishops 
of Rome, Carthage, Antioch, Ephesus, and Alexandria. Chris- 
tianity had begun among the lowliest classes of society, and its 
membership was still largely confined to the uneducated, though 
Christians were to be found in every rank of life and even in Court 
circles. Three centuries of contact, however, with the world of 
the early Roman Empire had profoundly modified the terms in 
which it expressed itself, and the fourth century, with its altered 
conditions, accelerated the results of such interaction. Inadequate 
though it must be, some account must nevertheless be given of the 
atmosphere which prevailed at the timeof Theodosius the Great. 
During these centuries the character of paganism had been 
completely transformed. Genuine allegiance to the old city-state 
deities of Greece and Rome had long ceased among the thinking 
members of society, but their thrones did not remain unoccupied. 
Scepticism, though prominent in literature, was steadily giving 
place to a different conception of religion, based on the desire for 
personal communion with the divine. In many shapes and com- 
binations the mystery-cults of Thrace, Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor, 
and Persia were adopted by the Roman world, and Hellenic 
myths, if not discarded, were woven in stylized form into the 
patterned texture of these composite faiths. Political conditions 
favoured the fusion of localized worships into a larger whole. 
Even at the far-off beginnings of the city-state in mainland 
Greece, many a village god had faded into an adjective of Zeus or 
Athena; a similar process can be seen at Rome, though the unify- 
ing tendency here was offset by her readiness to receive foreign 
deities into her crowded pantheon. The rise of the Hellenistic 
monarchies, which ended the vivid community-life of the city- 
state, turned the minds of men inwards, each one seeking a path 
to individual salvation, while the absolutism of the new kingdoms, 
modelled on Asiatic example, accustomed the Greek-speaking 
world to the idea of ruler- worship, which, as a powerful instru- 
ment of state, was carefully fostered by the reigning dynasties. 
Rome reaped the results of this when she introduced her Imperial 
cult, and the Stoic doctrine of an all-seeing, beneficent Provi- 
dence may well have assisted the humble provincial in his concep- 


tion of the omnipotent Emperor, whose justice determined the 
lives and welfare of vast populations. 

The development of philosophic thought was no longer antago- 
nistic to popular beliefs, but aided powerfully the henotheistic 
currents of religious feeling. Old myths were first rationalized, 
then symbolized, and the common features of various cults, 
recognized as approaches to a single divine power, were mingled 
eventually in a nebulous mass, out of which the noble mind of 
Plotinus, applying the canons of Hellenic reasoning to matter 
unsusceptible of such treatment, strove to create an ordered 
system. Neoplatonism, however, in his hands was less a doctrine 
than a way of life. A contemplative attitude had replaced the 
practical Stoic outlook, with its emphasis on conduct, and al- 
though the rationalizing element in Plotinus, the Greek pre- 
supposition of an intelligible universe, whose phases are logical 
consequences one of another, must not be overlooked, the essence 
of his thought is a mystical, almost sensual apprehension of 
reality, an immediate awareness, without the interposition of the 
reasoning faculty. This is made possible by the internal affinities 
existing among aa persons and objects in the universe, which lie 
hidden under the surface of appearance, and phenomena such as 
telepathy, omens, and astrological combinations can readily be 
explained by the same theory. Thaumaturgy, ritual purification 
and divination, however, form only a small part of the system of 
Plotinus. It remained for his successors, in their attempt to 
gather together all the forces of paganism against the common 
enemy, to enlist such magical aids to capture the emotions of the 
multitude, while to close the ranks of the intellectuals a blending 
of almost every doctrine of the ancient world, from Plato and 
Aristotle to the Stoics and Cynics, was ingeniously accomplished. 
The mystic cosmology of Neoplatonism and its scheme of re- 
demption, as developed by lamblichus, was thus the final shape 
assumed by organized Paganism in its struggle with Christianity, 1 

1 This applies principally to the East, where the term 'Hellenism', applied by 
Christians to their opponents, reveals the conscious, though unsuccessful, attempt 
to muster the traditions of classical culture in defence of the old religion. 'Pagan- 
ism', its Latin counterpart in the West, points to the sporadic survival of primitive 
village rites. Only at Rome, with her historical memories, a political and aristo- 
cratic cult of the old deities still held its own. 


and the contest must be viewed not as a battle between faith and 
scepticism, but as a rivalry between two competing mystery- 
religions, both speaking the language of their time. 1 Dogma 
apart, there is hardly an aspect which is not found equally in pagan 
and Christian asceticism, fasts, vigils, puritanism, ritual, saints, 
angels, demons, and the reliance on visions and sortes. Pagan and 
Christian art use the same symbolism, and are often indistinguish- 
able, save where exclusively Christian motives are employed; 
modern criticism, moreover, has tended to lessen the number of 
these. 2 Christians, by the fourth century, had accepted and 
absorbed the pagan learning, and the issues of the great Councils 
turn on Platonic and Aristotelian concepts, which conditioned 
men's thinking in this age much as the evolutionary and psycho- 
logical standpoints govern it to-day. It is significant that Julian, 
in his efforts to restore pagan worship, aimed at establishing a 
kind of Church, similar in many respects to the Christian organi- 
zation; a fixed dogma, a regular hierarchy, a system of hospitals, 
almshouses, and poor-relief were established, and even, for the 
clergy, an Index Expurgatorius. 3 

The strength of the Christian position was convincingly shown 
by Julian's failure to accomplish his purpose in face of public 
opinion. Rationalized myths and synthetic deities lacked the 
popular appeal of the Gospel stories, so much closer in time and 
spirit to the world of the fourth century. The esoteric subtleties 
of Neoplatonism and the fluid, accommodating character of 
pagan syncretism were equally deficient in compelling power. In 
its exclusive monotheism Christianity shared with Judaism, in 
contrast with other ancient religions, an immense source of stabi- 
lity. There was no place in it for other deities, save in the guise of 
malevolent demons. A hard core of doctrine was steadily form- 
ing, reinforced by the possession of an authoritative scripture. 
Here, too, a need of the times was met, for an increased reliance 
on authority is characteristic of the later stages of Graeco-Roman 
thought. The original, inventive genius of Greece had long since 

1 Julian, the pagan champion, attacks far more bitterly the rationalizing Cynics 
who deride the classical myths than the upholders of Christianity. Cf. J. Bidez, 
La Vie de VEmperevr Julian, (Paris, 1930) pp. 248 ff. 

2 e.g. the fish symbol. Cf. F. X. J. Dolger, 'IX9Y2 (Monster, 1910-32). 
CI. Bidez, op. cit., p. 269. 


disappeared, and the Roman triumphs in literature, art, archi- 
tecture, engineering, and even law were, in the main, the result of 
a brilliant application of principles already discovered. 1 Men 
were aware that the Golden Age lay behind them; nostalgia for 
the past and consciousness of present inferiority are themes 
familiar in the writings of this period. The Emperor Constantius, 
visiting Rome for the first time towards the end of his career, 
reserved his highest admiration for the Forum of Trajan; but 
he considered it far beyond mortal resources to rival so great a 
work, and declared himself competent only to imitate the horse 
of Trajan's equestrian statue. 2 

The fourth century is, above all, an age dominated by the 
Unseen. Mysterious threads linked every object in the Universe 
in bands of sympathy or antipathy. Sun and moon exercised 
their influence on the creatures belonging to their kingdoms. 
Cockcrow at morning, flowers turning to the sunshine had their 
mystical significance. 3 Man himself, born under an astral com- 
bination, accompanied through life by a guardian spirit, was 
placed in a world where even inanimate substances possessed 
magical qualities, and the least action or incident might prove 
ominous or disastrous. Never was the divine voice heard more 
frequently or more plainly. Visions and their interpretation 
became ever more prominent, and the world of dreams steadily 
encroached upon men's waking hours. A strongly subjective 
tinge colours the thought of this time; the internal conflict and 
emotional experience of the individual take on a heightened 
value, beside which the outer world fades into unreality. Even 
the great work of Augustine, whose influence on the Middle Ages 
can hardly be over-estimated, is characterized by this dream-like 
quality. The sharpened points of his magnificent, though often 
contradictory, rhetoric furnished a whole armoury of weapons 
for medieval controversialists of varied and even opposite schools, 
and the claims of Papacy and Empire, in a Western Europe 

1 Gf. Bury's trenchant verdict: 'The Romans of the Empire originated nothing. 
It is not too much to say that, from Augustus to Augustulus, poverty of ideas, 
incapacity for hard thinking, and excessive deference to authority characterized 
the Roman world.' 

2 Arnmian, xvi. x. 15. 

3 Memories of much of this late paganism can be divined in the magical practices 
of the Middle Ages. 


which Augustine never imagined, were debated in terms of his 
dialectic. But Augustine of the fourth century must be distin- 
guished from the superstructure reared on his foundations by the 
systematizing energy of subsequent centuries. Augustine stands 
in the midst of the ancient world, bounded by the limits of the 
Roman Empire, and still in possession of the full resources of 
Western culture. He stands at the same time apart from this 
world, enclosed in his dream of a heavenly city, whose denizens 
are but strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Both these aspects 
the unity of pagan and Christian civilization, on the one hand, 
and the deep cleft between them on the other were equally 
alien to the Middle Ages, when its former subjection to the 
Roman Emperors had become no more than a memory in the 
west of Europe, 1 and the full stream of classical learning had 
dwindled to a few runlets, carefully guided into ecclesiastical 
channels. Viewed from the standpoint of his age, the Civitas Dei 
of Augustine is less a 'philosophy of history' than a passionate 
assertion of Divine intervention in human affairs; less a pro- 
phetical formulation of the future limits of Church and State 
than the ecstatic vision of a philosopher-mystic, transcending the 
mournful realities of his time in the description of an ideal 
society, founded on the principle of true justice, whose gaze is 
fixed, not on the world of sense, but on the battlements of an 
eternal city not made with hands. 

At the death of Theodosius, the Roman Empire was divided 
between his two sons, Arcadius, aged 18, inheriting the eastern 
part, and Honorius, aged 1 1, the western. This division was not 
a new thing. There had always been certain differences between 
the Western provinces, whose culture and city-life were largely the 
creation of Rome, and the Eastern districts which still retained 
the Hellenistic tradition. The reorganization of the Empire 
under Diocletian and Constantine, which provided for the joint 
rule of two emperors, had established itself as the normal arrange- 
ment, persisting through the disturbances of the fourth century. 2 

The profound influence of that memory is well known: but it was an influence 
exercised in the realm of ideas, not of facts. 

* See below, p. 23. From 480 onwards the Empire was once more subject to a 
single ruler. 


Thus the first action of Valentinian (364), on being proclaimed 
Emperor, was to appoint Valens as his colleague. From now on, 
the two halves fall rapidly apart. Occasions of united action 
become few and far between; perhaps the last one was the 
great naval expedition in 468 against Gaiseric, the Vandal 
conqueror of Africa, whose piracies were threatening all com- 
merce in the Mediterranean; and this attempt at co-operation 
was an utter failure. 

Yet it is important to remember that in the eyes of contempora- 
ries, the Empire was still one and indivisible. It is false to the ideas 
of this time to speak of 'the Eastern and the Western Empires'; 
the two halves of the Empire were thought of as 'the Eastern, or 
Western parts' (paries orientis vel occidentis). It is commonly said 
that 'the Western Empire' fell in 476 when Romulus Augustulus 
was deposed by Odoacer, but this is a double mistake. Romulus 
was a usurper; the legitimate Emperor of 'the Western parts', 
who had taken refuge in Dalmatia some years before, died in 480. 
His death meant that, constitutionally speaking, Zeno now ruled 
from Byzantium over the undivided Roman Empire. This prin- 
ciple of the continuity of the Empire was recognized by the 
barbarians themselves, and some of their leaders genuinely sup- 
ported it. x Long after 476, the years were still dated by the names 
of the two consuls, one in Rome, the other in Constantinople; 
and imperial constitutions were still promulgated in the name of 
both Emperors, though after 450 the Western codes are not pub- 
lished in the East. It was, in theory, a single respublica with which 
the barbarians made treaties, although actually we find the 
foederati, or barbarian mercenaries, of the East fighting against 
those of the West. Stilicho, the general of Honorius, was once 
proclaimed a 'public enemy' at Constantinople because he tried 
to detach the prefecture of Illyricum from the East and add it to 
his master's share. The Emperor Zeno did not hesitate to inflict 
war upon Italy, when by sending Theoderic to attack Odoacer 

1 e.g. Alaric, Ataulf, Theoderic. Cf. pp. 46, 69. It is a striking fact that through- 
out the Dark Ages the claim of the rulers of Byzantium to exercise sovereignty over 
Rome's former dominions in Western Europe is constantly asserted; and the posi- 
tion of Charlemagne cannot be understood without reference to it. Even in the 
eighth century a Byzantine chronicler can speak of France as a diocese of the 
Roman Empire. 


he could relieve Thrace of the presence of his Goths, and the 
Byzantine treasury of large expenditure on subsidies for them. 

Ever since Constantine, in 330, had inaugurated his new capital, 
Constantinople had been growing at the expense of Rome. 
Commercially, it was far more important; the centre of the 
world's trade had passed to the eastern Mediterranean, and a 
serious rival to Antioch and Alexandria was already apparent. 
The eminence of bishops corresponded largely to that of their 
cities; and so the see of Constantinople, at first subordinate to 
Heraclea, was coveted by metropolitans, and finally declared 
higher in rank than Alexandria and Antioch, and second only to 
thesee of Peter: Tor Constantinople is New Rome'. Politically, the 
city was the head-quarters of a great military and administrative 
system. It had even a Senate of its own, and to it came the corn 
from Egypt which it had once been Rome's privilege to receive. 

During the last 100 years only three emperors, the poet 
Claudian laments, had entered Rome. She had become a pro- 
vincial town. Milan, which lay within easy reach of the Italian 
frontier, was the Imperial residence until Honorius, in fear of 
Alaric, retired to the marshes of Ravenna, which was to be the 
seat of government for over a century. The absence of its 
Emperor left Rome in the hands of the Popes, who now began 
gradually to develop their medieval powers. Unlike the Patri- 
archs of Constantinople, who lived under the shadow of the 
Palace, they could on occasion challenge the Emperor, negotiate 
with the barbarians, and more than hold their own against the 
remnants of the Roman aristocracy led by the City Prefect, head 
of their order. When Rome fell, the civilized world, from Augus- 
tine at Hippo to Jerome at Bethlehem, was profoundly shaken. 
But the shock was one of sentiment (though none the less real 
for that). Rome was the Sacred City, which enshrined alike the 
ancient order and the new faith, the hut of Romulus and the 
tomb of Peter. But she had long ceased to be the actual centre of 
the Empire. 

In 395 the north-western provinces of the Empire were on the 
eve of important changes. In Britain the defence of the 'Saxon 


shore*, the seaboard, that is, exposed to the attacks of the Saxons 
on the North Sea and both sides of the English Channel, had been 
the chief care of Rome during the fourth century; towards the 
end of it, the system efforts seems to have been extended north- 
ward along the Yorkshire coast. But in 402 troops were with- 
drawn for the defence of Italy; in 407 a would-be Emperor, 
called Constantine, crossed to Gaul with most of the Roman forces 
and was finally defeated and killed by Honorius' generals. The 
troops did not return, and for the next hundred years little is 
known of Britain. Archaeological evidence, and especially the 
coin finds, indicate the abandonment of Roman stations and 
the burning of towns. Scots from Ireland harried the west 
coast; on one of their raids Patrick was carried off, probably 
from the Severn estuary. Teutonic tribes pushed up river 
valleys and Roman roads on east and south. Henceforward 
only rumours and legends about Britain came through to the 
Roman world. Procopius, in the next century, regards it as a 
land half filled with serpents, a shadowy Island of the Dead to 
which souls are ferried across from Brittany. 

The Rhine frontier was also on the brink of a collapse. Julian 
had restored order in 357 in a series of brilliant campaigns against 
the invading Franks and Alamans; Valentinian had continued 
the struggle and set the newly come Burgundians to fight the 
Alamans; and Stilicho, about 395, had secured the defences of 
Gaul, as of Britain, for another ten years. But the eastern districts 
were heavily Germanized. There were settlements of Teutonic 
folk on both sides of the Rhine, and its defence consisted largely 
offoederati, barbarian tribes who were ready at one moment to 
fight against their kinsfolk or rivals in return for Roman pay or 
lands, and at the next to join their late enemies in extorting 
plunder or better terms from the Empire. When most of the 
regular frontier-guards were called away to defend Italy from 
Alaric, whole tribes could cross the Rhine on a dark night when 
the river was frozen, and enter Roman territory with impunity. 
Thus a mixed horde of Vandals, Sueves, and Alans passed the 
Rhine about 406, defeating Prankish resistance, and wandered 
about Gaul for some time, sacking most of the towns and causing 
disorder and famine, until in 408 they finally managed to cross 


the Pyrenees, and settled in Spain with similar but more lasting 
results. It is plain that the Imperial hold on the provinces beyond 
the Alps was becoming precarious. If further evidence is needed, 
it may be found in the fact that Constantine, the usurper from 
Britain, was able to call himself master of Gaul for four years by 
dint of avoiding the wandering barbarians. The campaigns of 
Constantine and other 'Roman' leaders against the generals of 
Honorius assume an air of unreality when we realize that, apart 
from Provence and the north-east corner of Spain, these provinces 
were already in fact, if not in name, passing into the hands of the 

This, however, was not apparent in 395 j 1 the main pressure 
area seemed then to be the Danube region. In 376 the Goths, 
driven forward by Hun invasion, streamed over the frontier, 
ravaged Macedonia, and at the disastrous battle of Adrianople 
in 378 defeated a Roman army and killed an Emperor. On that 
occasion they had marched to the very walls of Constantinople, 
and though Theodosius had come to terms with them, they still 
menaced the capital. Large numbers of them were in the Roman 
army, others wtrefoederati, settled within the Empire as national 
units demanding large subsidies. 

But Constantinople was to survive. For one thing, as we shall 
see, the Goths were diverted to the West; for another, the Eastern 
frontier was quiet during the whole of the fifth century. Armenia, 
which had been a buffer state between Rome and Persia since 
the time of Augustus, was partitioned in 387, and the long 
struggle to gain 'spheres of influence' came to an end. Farther 
south, the line of the Euphrates was untroubled, since Persia was 
menaced by other foes in the Oxus district; and the chain of 
Roman fortresses sufficed to check the wandering bands of Arabs 
in that region. 

In Africa, too, the desert frontier was maintained, though with 
lessening efficiency, against raiding nomads; Synesius, bishop of 
Cyrene, found the regular forces more cowardly than the local 
troops of neighbours which he raised and led. In the West, the 

1 Claudian, a contemporary poet, sings confidently of the overwhelming victories 
of Stilicho and the Roman armies in Britain and Gaul, comparing them to Marius* 
defeat of the Cimbri and Teutones. But it is true that he was a Court poet and a 
clever propagandist. 


Moorish and Punic population was taking advantage of religious 
and social disturbances 1 to throw off Roman influence. 

The state of the army about A.D. 400 is a mirror of general con- 
ditions in the Empire. Officially, the main structure of the 
reforms of Diocletian and Constantine still existed. The purpose 
of these had been, first, to promote efficiency by separating mili- 
tary from civil commands, and secondly, to secure the frontiers 
by permanent lines of camps, while the flower of the army (apart 
from various regiments of household troops) formed a mobile 
force which could be moved to any point threatened by invasion. 2 
During the fourth century the difference in quality between the 
field army (comitatenses) and the frontier troops (limitanei) had 
increased; the latter, distributed in permanent camps or small 
settlements with land attached, had become practically a militia 
of farmers; and owing to inter-marriage and constant infiltration 
along the border marches, were often of semi-barbarian descent, 
and differed little from the wholly barbarian settlements of 
laeti or gentiles which had been allowed to settle inside the 
Empire at various points, in return for a certain amount of 
military service. They were regarded as second-class troops at 
best, and contrasted unfavourably with the regulars. 

The army-list shows a great increase in the number of legions; 
but we gather from other sources that many of these existed only 
on paper or were simply detachments of the same legion. In fact, 
the usual strength of an effective unit was now 1,000 not 6,000. 
It was commanded no longer by a prefect, but by a tribune. 
Smaller units of various kinds (numeri), consisting of about 500 
men, were frequently employed. The actual numbers of the 
Roman field forces during the fifth century seem to have been 
surprisingly small, and they were usually increased by hiring 
barbarian allies, often Unreliable and always expensive. 

The Roman soldier at this time would hardly have been recog- 
nized as such by the legionary of the early Empire. The cuirass 
was worn only by cavalry and a few of the infantry. The old 
rectangular shield had been replaced by a round, hollow buckler 
which often bore the regimental badge. The short stabbing sword 

1 Cf. p. 27. 2 Sec Appendix A. 


(gladius) was still used, but the long spatha, a barbarian weapon, 
was replacing it. The traditional pilum, or heavy throwing spear, 
was seldom carried except by barbarian troops. The long medie- 
val pikes were coming in, and the cavalry in the next century 
all carried the lance. The bow had been borrowed from the 
Parthians, and was soon to be the weapon of horse and foot 
soldiers alike. During the fourth century there had been a real 
improvement in cavalry: the disaster of Adrianople had proved 
its importance, and the armoured horsemen of the Middle Ages 
make their appearance in the cataphractarii, or mailed cavalry, 
which is henceforward the deciding force. Many German words 
and customs had crept in. We hear of the drungus, a globe-shaped 
formation of troops; while the barritus, a warcry that swelled from 
a murmur to a terrible roar, had now spread from the German 
auxilia to the whole army. 

A striking detail of the un-Roman appearance of the Imperial 
forces at this period is the standard of the new legions, taken over, 
probably, from the cohorts of the old full legion, to which they 
corresponded roughly in size. It consisted of a Dragon (draco) 
an emblem perhaps borrowed from the Dacians a huge creature 
of barbaric aspect, inflated with air and fastened to the top of a 

These signs of barbarism are only symptoms of a deeper change. 
The Roman soldier now fought on level terms with the barbarian. 
In old days he had often been physically as well as numerically 
inferior; but by perfect drill and organization, as well as by 
superior weapons and transport methods he had conquered. 
Now all this was gone. Complicated tactics were no longer 
possible; even the great camps which the legionary built each 
night, and so increased his morale and his mobility, had ceased 
to be customary. Many of the barbarians were better armed, and 
had even served in the Roman forces at some time. The Imperial 
machine was breaking up. Commissariat and pay were pre- 
carious; disorder was rife. 

One result of this was the growth of personal retainers; 
big landowners took the law into their own hands, and paid, 
armed, and fed their followers. The practice grew, influenced 
probably by the widespread German institution of the 


which Tacitus describes. 1 It was officially recognized by 
Justinian's time, when all the generals and even civil officials and 
private people were followed by buccellarii. 2 Belisarius, for ex- 
ample, had as many as 7,000, but this was exceptional. Narses 
had only 400. 

The Roman legions had originally been composed of Italians; 
the provincials had later to be called upon, and finally the least 
civilized parts of the Empire Gaul, Illyria, Isauria became 
the main recruiting grounds. Compulsory levies still existed 
within the Empire landowners were forced to supply a certain 
number of men; but since they either sent the most useless, or else 
compounded by paying money, the practice had almost ceased. 
Barbarian prisoners, tribes who had submitted on terms, peoples 
settled on or near the frontiers, or free foederati such was the 
material of the army. The more barbarian, the better soldier. 
At the end of the fourth century a turning-point was reached. 
Theodosius let in an overwhelming number of Goths, and it was 
no longer possible to infuse even a smattering of Roman methods 
by distributing them among various units. 

Of the higher command, since Julian's time at least half had 
been German, and many of the rest were of barbarian extraction. 
Popular speech had, as always, been adapted to the realities of 
the situation. The military treasury was known as thefscus bar- 
baricus. And it is significant that an Egyptian mother, in an 
appeal for the release of her son, states that he has 'gone off with 
the barbarians 5 . She means that he has enlisted in the Roman 

The position of the Emperor at this time was, in a sense, the 
logical result of the work of Augustus. The so-called 'diarchy', 
or sharing of the sovereign power between Princeps and Senate, 
had from the first been largely a fiction, and it had been aban- 
doned before Diocletian. Henceforth the Emperor was supreme 
in all spheres, and the government of the Empire, down to its 
fall in 1453, may be styled an autocracy. It was, however, in 

1 Cf. pp. 41-2. 

z Buccellarii seems to be derived from buccella, a biscuit; perhaps because they 
received better food than the ordinary coarse meal of the common soldier. 


Mommsen's phrase c an autocracy tempered by the legal right of 
revolution 5 . The Emperor had always to fear the possibility of a 
rival. According to the original theory of Augustus an Emperor 
was elected to office by Senate and people. This had in practice 
been modified into acclamation by Senate and army, though the 
original principle survived at Byzantium in a ceremony in the 
Hippodrome before all the world. And if a rival could cause 
himself to be proclaimed Emperor by part of the army, he had 
'a presumptive constitutional status, which the event might 
either confirm or annul' (Bury). If he failed in his coup d'etat he 
was a rebel. If he succeeded, he was the legitimate ruler. 

This was not, however, the usual procedure at the death of an 
Emperor. Most rulers had a younger colleague when they died, 
and in that case there was no election. This dynastic principle, 
which was apparent in Augustus's policy, had become a recog- 
nized custom: the Emperor had 'the right of devolving the 
Imperial dignity upon others' . His colleague or colleagues would 
'be subordinate to him, for there was only one supreme ruler of 
the Empire. (In this respect the period from Diocletian to Julius 
Nepos (d. 480) is exceptional.) 1 Thus elective succession remained 
in the background, and in exceptional cases the Senate played 
an important part in this. 

There were other checks on the Imperial power. Although the 
Emperor was, in theory, above the law, yet there was an un- 
written obligation upon him to maintain the Roman laws and 
institutions. He must be an orthodox Christian: an undertaking 
to this effect was exacted at his accession from Anastasius (491), 
who was known to have heretical views, and at a later period a 
regular coronation oath became customary. But there was no 
permanent claim by the Church to exercise supremacy over the 
State, as in the Holy Roman Empire. Byzantium had no need 
of a Dante or an Occam to elaborate theories on this point. The 
Church was a department of the State; the Emperor was head 
of the Church, the Patriarch his Minister for Religion. The ruler 
received his power directly from God; and although he was not 
worshipped, as in Pagan times, his palace and his chamber were 
called sacred in official titles. Persian influence may perhaps be 

1 See p. 14. 


seen in this; it is certainly apparent in other ceremonial details. 
The Diadem, a white band set with pearls, had become the chief 
of the insignia; purple boots were also a part of the Imperial 
dress. Eunuchs and women dominated the Courts of Arcadius 
and Honorius; one of the four most important officials, the Prae- 
positus Sacri Cubiculi, or Grand Chamberlain, was a eunuch. 
The Emperor was hedged round with a barrier of etiquette 
(which required an enormous army of courtiers and servants for 
its expression) and fenced off from contact with reality. 

It is a curious paradox that at the same time administrative 
centralization had reached its highest point. The Emperor held 
all the threads of government; he was the sole source of law, and 
his jurists interpreted it; his council consisted of the heads of the 
great departments of state; the revenues of the Empire were no 
longer distinguishable from his private resources. He employed 
a large body of special agents (curiosi or agentes in rebus) who were 
commissioned to inquire into every point in the administration, 
and report directly to him. The Theodosian Code, to which we 
owe so much of our information at this time, is full of Imperial 
rescripts intended to remedy injustice and abuses. Yet their very 
repetition indicates failure. And in fact the vast bulk and com- 
plexity of the machinery of government overpowered the activi- 
ties of any individual; it was impossible to alter the movement of 
even the smallest of the interlocking wheels. The machine itself 
was threatened by yet larger forces; to stem the barbarian onrush 
became the first consideration. The magistri militum in this cen- 
tury were the real power, and an unwarlike emperor took 
inevitably a secondary place. 

The Senate of Rome had dwindled into a municipal council, 
with the Urban Prefect at its head, controlling the aerarium, 
which had long ceased to be the State treasury, and now provided 
for the city aqueducts and food-supplies. Its degradation was 
apparent after the Court had moved first to Milan and finally 
to Ravenna. The body which had once directed the Empire 
now concerned itself with the University and archives of the 
capital. Yet in theory it retained its ancient powers, and in 
moments of crisis might prove a decisive factor. At Byzantium, 
owing to more centralized conditions, the Senate became in- 


distinguishable from the consistoriwn or council of the Emperor. 
The old offices of consul and praetor still survived, and formed 
the highest ambition of the nobility of the capitals or provinces. 
But their duties were chiefly to supply games or shows for the 

The senatus, or senate proper, formed a very small proportion 
of the ordo senatorius, the large class of rich landowners which exer- 
cised enormous, though largely unofficial, influence and autho- 
rity throughout the Empire. Unless he belonged to it by birth, a 
man entered the order either by special permission of Emperor 
or Senate, or on becoming illustris, spectdbilis y or darissimus a 
member, that is, of the three highest ranks of nobility. Every 
important official post in the Empire had some title attached to 
it, or obtainable on retirement. These titles were constantly 
changing and increasing in number during the fourth and fifth 
centuries. They were not merely honorary, but conferred various 
forms of immunity from taxation, and were prized accordingly. 
Whole classes of functionaries passed automatically in this way 
into the senatorial order. It is not possible to describe in detail 
the official hierarchy. Below the three ranks already mentioned 
were the perfectissimi, a class consisting of minor officials and the 
heads of certain corporations; it was often a stepping-stone to 
the senatorial order. Below this class again the population was 
organized, as we shall see, in occupational divisions. 

After the disastrous chaos of the third century, stability was the 
main object, and this was secured by a resolute fixing and simpli- 
fying of all the elements of administration. The cost of foodstuffs 
had soared ; Diocletian sought to regulate it by enforcing a univer- 
sal scale of maximum prices . This led to many prosecutions but did 
not meet with any appreciable success. The coinage was debased 
and silver and gold had become scarce; Constantine introduced 
a gold solidus, which for centuries remained the standard coin, 
though the real unit of value was the pound weight of gold. 
Taxation in the early Empire had been based on the customs 
prevailing in various districts; it was a highly complicated system, 
and most of the revenue was derived from indirect taxes and from 
the produce of Imperial estates. The heaviest burdens were the 
irregular exactions in money and in kind, for provisions and 


transport of Roman armies and travelling officials. These re- 
quisitions increased enormously during the troubles of the third 
century when almost every province created an emperor or 
pretender, and regular trade was made almost impossible. But 
instead of going back to the earlier system, Diocletian decided to 
perpetuate these practices in the annona, and to substitute for the 
old system of assessment a simpler and rougher method of cal- 
culation (iugatio) which took less account of local peculiarities. 1 
The Empire must be saved at the expense of its people. In face 
of declining revenue, trade, population, and initiative, this was 
to be achieved only by turning the whole organism into a 
standardized machine for producing money and the necessities 
of life. 

The peasants were the basis of the State. They must therefore 
be coerced and yet protected. Most small farmers (coloni) were 
no longer freeholders; they had become, partly by contract or 
legislation, but more by economic necessity, tenants on the estates 
of big landowners. Their personal freedom was now curtailed. 
They and their sons were bound to the soil; if they contemplated 
flight, they were to be put in fetters. But their pair onus must not 
rack-rent; and he might not transfer coloni to another place when 
he sold the land on which they worked. The landowners were 
finally made responsible for the collection of the taxes paid by 
their tenants; and this completed the subjection of the coloni. 
They now formed a class of half-free persons, intermediate 
between free citizens and slaves. 

The desperate state of agrarian depression and its significance 
for the Empire are shown by the various expedients of the govern- 
ment to prevent land falling into disuse. A nominal rent was 
exacted in return for hereditary tenure of waste land which the 
occupier engaged himself to plant with olives and vines (emphy- 
teusis) . Or it was made a duty for possessors of estates to take over 
and be taxed for a certain amount of uncultivated land (epibole). 
Numbers of papyri recently discovered in Egypt put vividly 
before us the hardships of this system, which went on into Byzan- 
tine times. Any one showing signs of prosperity was saddled with 
waste plots. Constant requisitions of camels, arms, boats, slaves, 

1 See Appendix A. 


and other means of transport rendered trade impossible. Fugitives 
became brigands, and left their fellows with increased taxes to 
pay. The sands of the Sahara were already closing in upon corn- 
fields and vineyards left desolate by their owners. 

There were peasant risings in various parts. In Gaul and Spain 
the Bagaudae, bands of rebels, waged intermittent war during the 
fourth and fifth centuries, and on several occasions gave help to 
the barbarians. Salvian, a priest in southern Gaul who describes 
them, tells also of men who fled to the barbarians to escape the 
tax-collector. Slaves in some districts rose against their masters; 
and Priscus, in mid-fifth century, who went on an embassy to 
Attila, north of the Danube, found a Greek merchant living 
among the Huns, who gave him detailed reasons for preferring 
barbarism to civilization. In Africa, peasant disaffection, streng- 
thened by Punic and Moorish racial feeling, was fanned into a 
flame by the Donatist schism, and the circumcelliones (bands of 
flagellants and other fanatics) produced disturbances which 
paved the way for the Vandal invaders. The sudden efflor- 
escence of Celtic art in Britain, of Coptic' and Syriac literature in 
Egypt and Syria, shows that suppressed cultures elsewhere were 
only awaiting the weakening of Roman rule to renew their forces. 

But such movements were exceptional. Apathy was the 
characteristic mood of the peasant, for whom no prospect of 
better conditions was visible, and whose only object was to avert ' 
starvation for the coming year. 

Trade and industry had likewise to undergo State control. 
Even in Hellenistic times Egypt had known corporations of ship- 
owners and merchants in the service of the State. By the time of 
Claudius the practice had spread to the similar associations 
(collegia] ofnavicularii and mercatores in the Italian ports; and from 
Aurelian onwards the collegia of all trades came to be recognized, 
protected, and controlled by the government. Except perhaps 
in the Syrian caravan trade, they bore no resemblance to modern 
joint-stock companies, but merely provided a convenient legal 
personality' in dealings with the State. Industry was, throughout 
the period, mainly an affair of individual enterprise. 

The collegia of the navicularii are perhaps the best known, 
through numerous inscriptions, and may serve as an example. 


Diocletian required them to transport the food supplies, not only 
for the population of the capitals, but also for the armies. Their 
own property was responsible for the safe arrival of the car- 
goes. They were bound to proceed by the shortest route, and 
not to stop anywhere without absolute necessity. Their service 
was hereditary. Bakers, pork-merchants, suppliers of wood for 
bath-furnaces and other crafts and trades both in the capitals 
and the smaller towns were organized on the same lines, in 
collegia from which no escape was permitted. Munitions for the 
army were produced in State factories by the sweated labour 
of slaves. 

Local administration and tax-collection were likewise made 
an integral part of the great machine, and the curiales, who were 
responsible for them, were perhaps more wretched than any 
other class of the population. The early Empire had been (in 
one aspect) an aggregation of municipalities which retained a 
large measure of independence. By Trajan's time this was 
becoming curtailed; Imperial agents (correctores, curatores) were 
sent to regulate the finances of some of the cities of Greece and 
Asia Minor. With the growth of this practice municipal patriot- 
ism declined, public benefactions became exceptional; and the 
rise of Christianity, which demolished the temples of the polls- 
deities, the foci for so many centuries of communal loyalty and 
worship, helped to put an end to the forces which had kept 
the old city-state in being. But the need for local government 
persisted; and it was therefore necessary to compel the curiales, 
the well-to-do townsmen or landowners who were eligible for the 
city senates or for executive offices, to continue to undertake the 
charges (munera} of pettyjustice, deputations, inspection of build- 
ings, postal and transport service, collection of rates, &c., none 
of which carried a salary. A distinction had formerly been drawn 
between munera and honores, the latter term being used of offices 
which were a coveted prize. It is significant of the state of public 
feeling that this difference was no longer maintained. 

The most onerous duty was that of assessing or collecting the 
Imperial taxes. The curiales were personally liable for these, and 
the demands of the Imperial Exchequer were continually increas- 
ing. All manner of obstacles were put in their way. The big 


landowners refused to give information, and even armed their 
retainers to drive out the tax-collector. A bad harvest or an 
invading army might ruin the whole curia, for the deficit had to 
be made out of their own pockets. The ill feeling between town 
and country was heightened by the corruption and extortion to 
which the curiales were driven. 

In the enactments stretching from Constantine to Majorian 
which are included in the code of Justinian, we can trace, through 
1 50 years and 1 92 edicts, the slow destruction of the middle classes. 
Their desperate efforts to reach the senatorial order, with its 
prestige and immunities, are checked with increasing severity. 
The army, the church, the civil service are closed to them. 
Membership of the curial class becomes hereditary; it is glorified 
by high-sounding tides; it is the 'lesser Senate 3 , the 'splendid 
dignity'; but the curiales are forbidden to travel abroad or even 
to reside in the country, for 'they are to remain in the bosom of 
their native place, as it were dedicated with sacred fillets, and 
guarding the eternal mystery which they cannot abandon with- 
out impiety'. This is a good example both of the rhetoric of the 
Code and of its complete denial of personal freedom. Other 
edicts show further restrictions, and stop various attempts to 
escape. In Egypt and the East the curiales fled to the desert 
hermitages; elsewhere, they sought to join more humble collegia, 
or placed themselves under the patronage of some powerful land- 
owner; many small proprietors parted secretly with their estates 
under pressure of debt, and joined the ranks of the coloni. 

In complete contrast to these miserable conditions stands the 
luxurious life of the upper classes. Their revenues had in many 
cases increased, while that of the Imperial Exchequer dwindled. 
Secure in their country fastnesses, they defied the tax-gatherer, 
and formed a vast freemasonry of governors and officials, con- 
nected by ties of blood and class, to defeat the ends of justice and 
nullify any reforming edicts. They present a curious 'mixture of 
ancient and medieval characteristics. There is a distinctly feudal 
flavour about the great families of the period the Anicii, for 
instance, at Rome, the Apion house in Egypt, the inter-related 
aristocracy of southern France with their huge domains like little 


kingdoms, their seignorial justice and bands of mounted retainers. 
Mosaics from the floors of African villas show us .something like 
a castle or fortified manor; the serfs render services or payments 
in kind; a self-contained 'house-economy 9 is practised, and all 
the needs of life are met by local industry. 1 The lord and his 
companions are seen riding out to the hunt or entertaining men 
of learning. Ausonius and others give a similar picture of condi- 
tions in southern France. The days of city life are passing. The 
old spacious towns of classical form, unwalled, with baths, 
temples, porticoes, and approaches lined with villas and tombs, 
are soon to become huddled, and enclosed by walls and bastions, 
often hastily put together from grave-stones or blocks from the 
cornice of some public building. Luxury departs to the country as 
commerce declines. Roads are infested by brigands, and the 
great inter-provincial trade-routes no longer bring pottery and 
metal-ware to the home of the peasant or artisan. Village life 
grows up round the manor: many French hamlets to-day take 
their name from the original Roman landowner who lived on 
his estate at this time, only coming into the town, it might be, 
for Easter or an important lawsuit. But it is the next century that 
sees the full development of this process. At the close of the fourth 
century sea-borne trade was still considerable. Many parts of 
the Empire still prospered; the brilliant city-life of towns like 
Antioch and Alexandria continued, and though agriculture had 
long been depressed in Greece and Italy, there was no general 
fall in the productivity of the soil. Syria, Egypt, North Africa, 
Spain, and Southern Gaul still produced teeming harvests: and 
it must be remembered that the basic industry of the Roman 
Empire had always been the cultivation of the soil. Further, the 
feudal life we have described is only one aspect. On the social 
side, at first glance, we might fancy ourselves back in the world of 
Juvenal, Martial, or the Younger Pliny. The satire of Ammian 
and Jerome plays round the extravagant dresses and dinners of 
the Roman nobles, the courtesans, parasites, clients, and slaves. 
In the East, Chrysostom thunders against silk and jewels, gold- 

1 The fourth century villa at Chedworth in the Cotswolds, with its interesting 
dyeing establishment, may be compared. It is probable, to judge by its size, that 
it was designed to serve the needs of the district. 


and silver-plated furniture and chariots, and describes the 
customary procession, in military formation, of slaves, eunuchs, 
and mule-drawn cars (which Ammian notes also at Rome), when 
the noble leaves Constantinople or Antioch for his country seat, 
elaborately furnished and provisioned for a few days sojourn. 
The scene recalls that of the coaches of Le Grand Monarque 
setting out from Versailles on the road to Marly, but the general 
atmosphere is not essentially different from that of the age of 
Tacitus, or even Horace. 

A principal cause of this conservatism of manners lies in the 
social importance given to a form of education which tended to 
perpetuate old standards. The study of grammar and rhetoric 
was necessary as a preparation not only for the civil service 
and most members of the upper classes were or had been Imperial 
officials but also for polite intercourse. A cultured man was 
well acquainted with his classical models in verse or prose, and 
appreciated fully their technical perfection; antiquarian or 
grammatical points were often subjects of table talk or leisurely 
correspondence. But this insistence on form rather than on matter 
is the symptom of two great defects in the thought and literature 
of the time. In the first place they were unreal, archaic, academic : 
the written word bore small relation to common speech, which 
by now had gone far down the slope towards the 'Low Latin 9 of 
medieval times. The letters of Symmachus are conscious exer- 
cises in elegant expression rather than spontaneous utterance; 
and Ausonius, who can sketch a given scene cattle watering, 
an angler, suAset on the river with all the delicate precision of 
a Proust, and in a few adjectives presents a whole gallery of 
provincial portraits, Bordeaux professors, country gentlemen, 
maiden aunts worthy of Cambray, too often lets in a flood of 
irrelevant mythology or classical epithets. A vineyard seen on 
the Garonne inevitably provokes a mention of Rhodope and 
Pangaeus; a country house irresistibly recalls all the buildings 
constructed by famous architects from Daedalus onwards. 

The second and more serious defect is the overwhelming 
influence of Rhetoric. All other considerations rhythm, 
vocabulary, emphasis are subordinate to one sole purpose, 
dialectic victory. It is the vicious principle personified by the 


"ASiKo$ Aayos of Aristophanes' Clouds, and its results are seen in 
Christian and Pagan writers alike, in garish tinsel ornament, 
systematic exaggeration, deliberate unfairness to opponents and 
general loss of integrity. It pervades equally the diatribes of 
Jerome and the periods of Libanius, and is seen at its worst in 
the multitude of ecclesiastical controversialists . Even Augustine 
does not wholly escape it, though a feverish sincerity glows 
through the Confessions] and the magnificent organ-notes of 
Claudian are music of the mind, not the heart. The mystery and 
symbolism of the Christian belief called for new means of expres- 
sion. The stately hymns of Hilary and Ambrose and the magical 
lyrics of Prudentius, greatest of Roman Christian poets, fuse the 
strangely evocative Hebrew imagery of the Septuagint with the 
sonorous incomprehensibilities of Christian dogma. The medie- 
val mind, whose orderly universe with its scheme of salvation, 
its antithetical virtues and vices, its recurrent cycles of seasons 
and festivals a refuge built foursquare against the demon- 
haunted terrors of outer chaos may be seen graven upon the 
portals of Chartres, is already apparent in the Psychomachia and 
the Cathemerinon Liber. 1 

It is useless to outline in mechanical abstractions the tendencies 
of this transitional age in art, literature, religion, philosophy, and 
science. The interaction of Christianity and Paganism, the con- 
fluence of Roman, Greek, and Oriental streams of culture, can 
be depicted, if at all, only by copious and detailed illustration. 
Yet from the writers of the fourth and fifth centuries certain 
characteristics of the educated classes may be drawn; an elegant 
pedantry, a vague liberalism, a watery humanity, a fluid panthe- 
ism, and above all, a vast superstition, creeping up from the lower 
classes as rationalism decayed. It is not among the extremists 
that we must look for the authentic expression of this period. 
Symmachus, adept of innumerable cults, and Flavianus, 'last of 
the pagans 5 , who directed the final revival of the old religion at 
Rome on the eve of Theodosius' Christian victory, 2 look back 
to an earlier time. Augustine, Simeon Stylites, and Ambrose 

1 Gf. F. J. E. Raby, A History of Christian-Latin Poetry (Oxford, 1927), ch. ii on 

2 At the battle of the Frigidus (394), near Aquileia, Theodosius I utterly defeated 
the Western army under Arbogast the Frank and Eugenius his puppet-emperor. 


herald the schoolmen, hermits, and dominating prelates of the 
Middle Ages. But the great mass of educated opinion is neither 
Christian nor pagan. It is significant that the religion of so many 
of the chief writers of this time Ausonius, Claudian, Nonnus, 
to name no others is still a subject of controversy. 

The reign of Theodosius marks a stage in the relations of 
Church and State. Both externally and internally there was a 
brief space of comparative calm. During the fourth century the 
churches had been divided by heresy and schism, which were 
aggravated, if not engendered, by the resurgence of racial feeling 
or local patriotism. Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople con- 
tended for the primacy of the East. Donatists in Africa, Priscil- 
lianists in Spain, wandering ascetic bands in Egypt and the Near 
East with pronounced views on diet, marriage, property, and 
clothing, all received support from the populace in their war 
against authority. And this authority itself, in the person of the 
Emperors, had, since the death of Constantine, been mainly 
Arian or semi-Arian. In conformity with Imperial policy there 
had been depositions of prelates in many sees; and when this was 
contrary to popular feeling, two or more rival bishops or metro- 
politans, each with an excitable following, divided the loyalties 
of the big cities. In Rome the Papal party of Damasus, antici- 
pating the tumults of medieval times, stormed the church of 
Ursinus, the anti-Pope, killing over a hundred of his supporters 
on one day (Oct. 26, 366). 

Since the Council of Nicaea (325) there had been repeated 
efforts to formulate dogma, and a series of creeds was produced, 
representing various shades of doctrine, often concluding with 
anathemas pronounced upon opponents. The constant re- 
grouping of different parties was bound to produce disturbance, 
especially when complicated by political, personal, or patriotic 
interests. But for the moment affairs wore a more settled aspect. 
The Emperor was Catholic: severe measures were passed against 
different heresies: the anti-pagan edicts took a stronger form. 
Within the Church, Rome and the Eastern sees were once more in 
communion Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch recon- 
ciled for the nonce. Arianism was a lost cause inside the Empire, 


though growing rapidly among the barbarians along its borders. 
Monophysitism had not yet appeared. The organization of the 
Church was becoming more regular and its relation to the State 
ever closer. Privileges, such as freedom from the curia or from 
military service; and testamentary and property-holding rights, 
were established or enlarged. Bishops received civil jurisdiction, 
while secular control of ecclesiastical elections was exercised, 
with varying success, in the interests of public order and the 
unity of the Empire. 

In the fourth century, doctrinal controversy centred round the 
relation of the Son to the Father; in the fifth century, round the 
nature of the Son. The two problems were not unconnected. 
Arianism, by subordinating the Son to the Father, was con- 
sidered by the Athanasians to deny the full divinity of the Son. 
Sabellianism, at the other extreme, by insufficient differentiation 
denied, the Arians thought, his full humanity. Constantine had 
summoned the Council of Nicaea, at which the Imperial will 
had triumphed, and Arius had been condemned. Various coun- 
cils during the fourth century sought to establish creeds of a semi- 
Arian or non-committal nature. Finally, Theodosius convoked 
the Council of Constantinople (381), which reaffirmed the creed 
of Nicaea, and Arianism was henceforth sternly suppressed. 

In the next century disputes arose over the relation of human 
and divine in the nature and personality of the Son. Their 
importance for the general historian lies largely in the political 
issues involved. Perhaps the chief of these was the rivalry between 
Constantinople and Alexandria, and the workings of this rivalry 
illustrate many aspects of the religious controversies of the age. 
The Church had, from early times, adopted the divisions of the 
State in its organization. Cities became the seats of bishops, who 
met in synod in the provincial capitals. The bishops of these 
capitals became metropolitans, controlling the election of subor- 
dinate bishops. 1 Finally, the over-metropolitan, or patriarch, 
appears in the great apostolic sees of Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, 
Ephesus, and he in turn controls the election of metropolitans. 
A new and disturbing factor was introduced when Constantine 

1 These developments were still unfamiliar in the West during the fourth 


founded his city, which from 330 grew rapidly in importance. 
The bishop of Byzantium had in theory been subject to the 
metropolitan of Heraclea. This soon became absurd in view of 
his political status, and in 381 the Council of Constantinople 
declared him second in honour only to the bishop of Rome 
'because the city of which he is bishop is New Rome 9 . The prin- 
ciple was clear, and so was the threat to Alexandria. 

From 395, when Theodosius died, to 450, when Marcian suc- 
ceeded Theodosius II, the star of Egypt was in the ascendant, for 
the throne was occupied by weaklings, and the see of Alexandria 
was ruled by what amounted to a dynasty of strong and un- 
scrupulous prelates, with a traditional technique which included 
bribery, anathemas, exploitation of national animosity, and the 
terrorizing of councils by the use of armed sailors from the ports 
of Alexandria and monks from the Thebaid. Egyptian policy 
was directed by a series of commanding personalities and able 
theologians. There are four stages in the contest; the first two end 
with a decisive victory for Alexandria, the third with bare suc- 
cess, and the fourth with her downfall. 

First Stage. 398. Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, fails to 
prevent the election of Chrysostom to the see of Constantinople 
owing to the support of Eutropius, the eunuch chamberlain of 

403. Theophilus, by making use of the Empress Eudoxia, 
whom Chrysostom had offended, and of opposing groups in 
Asia, secures the deposition of Chrysostom at the Synod of the 
Oak. Chrysostom is finally sent into exile. 

Second Stage. 431. Council of Ephesus. Cyril, bishop of Alexan- 
dria, by similar methods deposes and excommunicates Nestorius, 
patriarch of Constantinople, on the accusation that he has 
divided too trenchantly the personality of Christ. 

Third Stage. 449. Second Council (or 'Latrocinium*} of Ephesus. 
Dioscorus, bishop of Alexandria, succeeds in deposing Flavian, 
bishop of Constantinople, and restoring Eutyches, a monk who 
had, when attacking Nestorius, maintained not only the single 
personality but also the single nature of Christ. This success was 
gained not only by bribery of the eunuch chamberlain Chrysa- 
phius and other courtiers, but also by armed force employed at 


the council. Rome, which had supported Alexandria in 43 1 , was 

now hostile, and Antioch wavering. 

Fourth Stage. 450. Theodosius II dies. Pulcheria, his sister, 
overthrows Chrysaphius, causes Marcian to be elected Emperor, 
and the Council of Chalcedon (451) to be summoned. Eutyches is 
condemned, Dioscorus banished, and the domination of Alexan- 
dria finally ended. 

Even more important than the downfall of Alexandria were 
the other effects of Chalcedon. The doctrine of the two natures 
of Christ, which Leo of Rome had formulated, was accepted. 
The Alexandrian party resisted this, and ultimately in both 
Egypt and Syria the Monophysite heresy prevailed, which pro- 
claimed one nature only. Henceforth the emperors at Constanti- 
nople had to choose between communion with orthodox Rome 
and peace with two very important provinces. Zeno, in 482, by 
issuing his Henoticon, 1 chose the latter, and Anastasius followed 
him. Justinian successively chose both. Not till Syria and Egypt 
fell into Mahometan hands was the problem at an end. 

Egypt had been the centre of these conflicts; she was also the 
original home of monasticism. There had been and continued 
to be, in all parts of the Empire, numbers of men and women 
(confessors and virgins) who practised continence and were assi- 
duous in attending church services. But Antony (c. 270) became 
the leader of a portentous movement when he forsook not only 
the world but the organized church by going into the desert as 
a hermit. His example was widely followed; there were soon 
over five thousand settlers round the salt lakes of the Wadi 
Natrun and in the desert of Skete, which contained 'the most 
celebrated virtuosi of asceticism' (Duchesne). Their feats of 
endurance caught the imagination of the East, as did those of the 
pillar-saints later on. A more fruitful system was introduced by 
Pachomius during the fourth century. Groups of monasteries 
were formed, each with a common rule and subject to a single 
authority. They were visited by pilgrims from Rome, Gaul, and 

1 The Henoticon, or Scheme of Union, was an attempt to prohibit further con- 
troversy, by declaring the sufficiency of the faith as defined at Nicaea and Constan- 
tinople, and at the same time to conciliate the Egyptian Church by virtually leaving 
the decision of Chalcedon an open question. It was wrecked mainly by the 
opposition of Rome. 


Spain, who introduced their practices to the West. The Sinai 
district, as well as Palestine and Syria, were soon filled with 
monks, isolated or in communities. In Asia Minor, Basil was 
responsible for a code of rules which improved on those of Pacho- 
mius in moderation and discipline, and which from that day to 
this has governed all the monasteries of the Greek and Slavonic 
world. The monks came sometimes into conflict with the 
authorities both of Church and State; armed with clubs, they 
broke up councils or demolished the shrines of pagans or heretics. 
The growing nationalism which is heralded by the appearance of 
popular Coptic and Syriac literature found its champions in 
figures like Shenuti, who from the bastions of his white hill-top 
monastery led hundreds of followers against the heathen, wrong- 
doers, unjust judges, and landowners of Egypt. 

But the political influence of the monks was local and inter- 
mittent. More significant was the increasing secular power of the 
Church as a huge corporation with an army of dependants, 
owning lands, wealth, and charitable institutions, and controlled 
by bishops who in many provincial cities had become the most 
important personage. Acacius at Amida, Synesius at Gyrene, 
Sidonius in Auvergne, and others like them, are the natural 
leaders of the community; they head embassies to the barbarians, 
protect their flock from famine and outrage, and even organize 
armed resistance to the enemy. 



A GLANCE at the map is enough to show the dangerous position 
of the Empire in 395. On the Rhine, the places of those 
scattered tribes whom Caesar and Tacitus had known were taken 
by a formidable line of peoples who had travelled slowly west- 
ward from the Baltic region, gaining in cohesion and military 
value by their approach to the Roman confines. The two Frank- 
ish groups were the most powerful of these peoples; but the 
Alamans who had found their way into the re-entrant angle 
between Rhine and Danube were an equal menace, owing to 
their strategic position. The other re-entrant, formed by the 
southward and eastward turns of the Danube near Budapest and 
Belgrade, had been largely filled up when the province of Dacia 
(Transylvania and Rumania) was created; but this was aban- 
doned to the barbarians after 257 : the Asding Vandals now held 
the north-west, the Visigoths, since 364, had been pressing south- 
ward against the Danube, and shut in behind these two were the 
Gepids. The Ostrogoths still wandered in the great plains of 
South Russia and had not yet, save for a few roving bands, come 
into immediate contact with the Empire. Still farther east, on 
Don and Volga, were the Alans, an Iranian people. Behind this 
first line were other restless tribes, preparing to play their part 
Saxons on the Weser, Angles in Schleswig-Holstein; Sueves on 
the Elbe, Lombards in Silesia, Heruls in the Crimea, and Slavs 
beyond the Pripet marshes. 

Each section of the long frontier had at one time or another 
been threatened or even broken through; but the Romans pos- 
sessed interior lines of communication, and troops were hurried 
to the spot. Now this was of no avail. A new force had appeared 
from the Asian steppes, under whose impact were set in motion 
the barbarian attacks, incessant and ubiquitous, which in little 
more than a generation finally broke up the Empire in the West. 
This force was the Huns. Soon after 355 they reached the Volga, 
overpowered the Alans and hurled back the Ostrogoths behind 
the Dniester (c. 370); the impact drove the Visigoths over the 


Danube, and the great battle of Adrianople is the beginning of 
Rome's disasters. Checked for a few years by Theodosius, at his 
death the Visigoths ravage Greece (396) and install themselves 
in Epirus (399), threatening both peninsulas; held for a time by 
Stilicho, they finally capture Rome (410), then pass over into 
Aquitaine (416) where their Tolosan kingdom is eventually 
founded. Meanwhile the Alans, fleeing westward, are joined by 
the Asding Vandals (401) who had become too populous for the 
Theiss valley, and go to swell the numbers of their kinsfolk in 
Silesia. They are reinforced by Sueves, and the four peoples 
force the Rhine*frontier (406), wander through Gaul, cross the 
Pyrenees (409) and ravage Spain for twenty years, before the 
Vandals finally take possession of their African kingdom. Fifty 
years later Ostrogoths are in Italy, Franks and Burgundians 
dividing the rest of Gaul, Angles and Saxons well launched on 
their conquest of Britain; and by the end of the century all the 
Western provinces are in barbarian hands. 

The early history of Germany is dim and mist-shrouded like 
the forests and swamps which covered the greater part of the 
country. On the Baltic shores, between Elbe and Oder, were the 
primitive German settlements, groups of huts in a clearing in 
the woods, or on high ground, occupied by hunting and pastoral 
tribes. As population increases or game becomes scarce they 
move westwards, driving before them the Celtic peoples, earlier 
inhabitants of western and southern Germany. By about 200 B.C. 
they have reached the Rhine and a century later Bavaria has 
ceased to be Celtic. Caesar's Gallic conquests established the Rhine 
frontier; faced by this barrier, the West Germans can expand 
no further. They are forced into more intensive methods of food- 
production. Agriculture develops; institutions crystallize, and 
Roman traders bring new wares and foreign manners. Tacitus, 
writing a hundred and fifty years later, describes a considerably 
more advanced type of culture than that noticed by Caesar. 

Meanwhile other German tribes had, from the sixth to the 
third centuries B.C., been crossing from Scandinavia to the Baltic 
shore between Oder and Vistula. These East Germans took a 
different path; during the following centuries they found their 


way across Europe in a southerly direction, up the Vistula to the 
Carpathians or through Poland and the Pripet marshes to the 
great plains which lie north of the Black Sea. Continually moving 
to fresh pastures, they retained, unlike the West Germans, their 
primitive ways of life. The composite picture which can be drawn 
from Caesar, Tacitus and other travellers or savants who set down 
the curiosities of the German folk must, therefore, be applied with 
some qualification, considering the different stages of develop- 
ment (of which we know little) among the various tribes. And it 
has always been difficult for civilized observers to avoid attribut- 
ing too great rigidity and regularity to the vague concepts and 
changing customs of more simple races. A fundamental differ- 
ence, moreover, existed between the Germans and the peoples of 
the Mediterranean city-state culture. For centuries past, the 
individual in these cities had been subordinated to the state; 
apart from it, he was an outcast: he was incompletely human. 
The German, living in isolation or in a small family settlement, 
was above all things an individual, resenting any interference, 
and recognizing no obligation except that of loyalty to his 
plighted word when given to another individual. Hence a con- 
stant centrifugal tendency; all through his early constitutional 
development, the ties of family, clan and state are continually 
broken. Misunderstanding was inevitable. German perfidy 
becomes a byword among the Romans owing to breaking of 
treaties and treacherous warfare. And the personal loyalty, 
which is perhaps the true explanation of Stilicho's baffling 
character, may account for the hatred felt by his opponents for 
that which they could not comprehend. 

Each tribe, when it was, for the time being, stationary, had a 
district bounded by natural obstacles, such as marshes, forests, or 
rivers. It was divided into gaus, communities of varying size 
which furnished 1,000 to 1,500 warriors for the host. Each gau 
was further divided into hundreds, personal bands of 100 to 120 
freemen, for war or judicial purposes. The hundred is connected 
with the clan, a group of 10 to 20 families which persists through 
all changes and forms the basis of the final constitutional forms. 
(Here, as elsewhere, a symmetry and precision are observable 
which must not be applied too literally.) 


Sovereignty rested in the folk-moot ('thing' or mallus), the 
gathering of all free warriors, which elected the rulers, and de- 
cided treaties, war and peace, and adoption of new members of 
the community. It was summoned and presided over by the 
king, or by a gau-chief (in non-monarchical tribes), and a high- 
priest offered sacrifices and punished violations of the assembly- 
truce. The chief of the gau led his contingent in war, gave justice 
in his court with the help of the hundred-chiefs, and assigned 
lands to the various families. The king, in early times, had very 
restricted powers; some tribes had two kings, some none; some 
elected a leader merely for a campaign, or a gau-chief to preside 
at the moot; in others kingship gave way to priestly rule. Offend- 
ing monarchs could be deposed at will; and though the kings 
were chosen usually from the same family, any member of it 
might be elected. A strong personality could make a kingship 
a real force, especially in war-time; and contact with Roman 
absolutism generally increased the power of the king, especially 
when the tribe settled actually within the Empire. 

The army, which coincided as in the early history of Greece 
and Rome with the whole body of freemen, was organized by 
thousands, hundreds, and clans. The regular battle formation- 
was the cuneus or wedge. Cavalry was as a rule the more important 
arm, but the Franks fought mainly on foot. Metal was scarce. 
Leather caps, round shields of wood or wicker covered with hide, 
lances (the chief weapon), clubs, bows, battle-axes, and swords 
were used in battle. Circular hill-top ramparts or lines of locked 
waggons were their fortifications. Boat-making, among the mari- 
time tribes, evolved from dug-outs, holding up to thirty men, into 
the plank-built galleys on Viking lines, which held over a hun- 
dred, and the pirate Saxon ships, with their leather sails, which 
became the terror of the Channel ports. 

Apart from a few household servants, mostly captured in war, 
the lowest class consisted of subject populations who worked on 
the land; their numbers increased as agriculture developed (for 
the free German scorned to handle the plough), until raids came 
to be made largely for the purpose of acquiring them. The second 
class, the freemen, formed the bulk of the population. The nobles 
were the families of kings and ^-chiefs. Each king or chief had 


the right to a comitatus, a band of free retainers who fed at his 

table in time of peace, and formed his bodyguard in battle. 

The preceding account applies more to the settled West 
Germans than to those primitive tribes whose wanderings we are 
about to trace. 1 Cattle were the chief source of food when on the 
march, and this must largely explain the astonishing mobility of 
the migrating hordes. Their beasts needed no means of transport; 
while their waggons were actually drawn by oxen. It is difficult 
to estimate the numbers of the invading peoples; probably the 
larger ones varied from 80,000 to 120,000, and the smaller from 
25,000 to 50,000. About one-fifth of the whole people can be 
reckoned as fighting men; so that in the great battles between 
Imperial troops and their German enemies only about 20,000 
were engaged on either side. The Roman Empire cannot be said 
to have fallen to the attack of overwhelming numbers. 

It is not easy for us to see these people s in their habit as they 
lived'. The Romans took an anthropological interest in these 
tall, fair-haired children, decked out in gpld armlets and chains, 
drowsing for weeks before the fire, drinking for whole nights and 
days together, or stirred to sudden grief or passion, bursting into 
tears or striking a slave dead; brawling with their neighbours, 
raiding cattle, applauding their leaders in council with beating 
of spear upon shield, or following them to the death in battle. 
To us they appear all alike; to the eye as skin-clad barbarians, 
to the mind as hungry masses driven onward by economic forces. 
Hardly can nations be distinguished. The Lombards carry the 
long battle-axe (barda), the Franks the deadlyfrancisca, the Saxons 
a short sword (sah] . Burgundians, Sidonius writes in the late fifth 
century, are seven feet high, grease their hair with rancid butter, 
have enormous appetites and speak in stentorian tones. The 
Frank is grey-eyed, clean-shaven, has yellow hair and a close- 
fitting tunic. Still less do personalities emerge. Marbod and 
Ermanaric, overlords of scattered empires, are scarcely more than 
names. The times of wandering were a Heroic Age for the 

1 The habit of mind which produced this culture, however, was common to all 
the Teutonic peoples, and institutions existing only in primitive form during the 
migratory period developed speedily when once the wanderings were over. The 
conflict of these institutions with the Roman civilization will constitute the back- 
ground of the next chapter. 


German peoples, and the figures and incidents which struck their 
imagination we see only through a glass darkly, in fragments of 
folk-tales or great epic cycles, distorted by later centuries. The 
legend of the hind that guided the Huns through the Crimean 
marshes to surprise the Alans still holds something of the terror 
of that time. The mighty figure of Theoderic and his long siege 
of the secret city of Ravenna are reflected in the saga cycle of 
Dietrich von Bern 1 and the Rabenschlacht. And in the Nibelungenlied 
we catch a faint glimmer of the doomed splendour of Gunderic's 
Burgundian palace on the Rhine. 

Ostrogoths and Visigoths were originally one people. From 
their legends and the evidence of place-names they appear to 
have crossed the Baltic, from Scandinavia to the mouth of the 
Vistula, well before the fourth century B.C. About A.D. 150 some 
of the Gothic tribes began a long south-eastward movement, 
which led them up the Vistula through the Pripet marshes, and 
finally to the lower Dnieper and the northern coast of the Black 
Sea. There they split into two stems, whose names were, in view 
of later events, taken to mean 'East' and 'West' Goths. The 
Ostrogoth tribes soon spread over South Russia, while the Visi- 
goths turned westwards, continually harrying the Roman 
province of Dacia, and even Macedonia and Greece. At last 
Rome could no longer hold Dacia; her traders and officials re- 
crossed the Danube, which, freshly fortified, again became the 
frontier as in the time before Trajan. 

Great changes were now imminent. Arian Christianity was 
introduced, producing internal faction. Its heretical form was 
destined to play a great part, here as in other German peoples, 
in sharpening the hostility between Roman and barbarian. 
More important still were the results of the Hun invasion. The 
Visigoths, seized by panic, obtained permission from the Emperor 
to cross the Danube into lower Moesia (Bulgaria) , and they finally 
settled within the Empire as a national unit. This is a foretaste of 
the manner in which the Western provinces were shortly to be 
dismembered. But the settlement was only temporary; and it 
was not effected till after four years of warfare, due to the mis- 

1 i.e. Theoderic of Verona. 


handling of the refugees by Roman officials, and culminating in 
the great disaster of 378. x The battle of Adrianople has a twofold 
significance. It is one of Rome's most signal defeats at German 
hands, to be classed with the tragedy of Varus in A.D. 9, and the 
death of the Emperor Decius in 25 1 . And it is the real beginning 
of medieval warfare; the heavy cavalry which rode down the 
Imperial legions was henceforth to be the decider of battles until 
Swiss pikemen and English archers in the fourteenth century 
challenged its supremacy. 2 

Perhaps the most momentous event of all was the election of 
Alaric by the Visigoths to be their king, which took place soon 
after the death of Theodosius. Like so many other able Germans 
he had to some extent broken away from the ties of blood, and 
entered on a career in the Roman federate troops. He hoped 
probably to rise to an important position in the Empire, as Arbo- 
gast, Stilicho, and others had done. His strange manoeuvres 
during the next fifteen years may perhaps be explained by this 
assumption that his interests were not wholly Visigothic (those of 
his people were limited to subsidies and land) , but were concerned 
with achieving a definite place in the government of the Empire. 
He began by ravaging the whole of Greece, including the Pelo- 
ponnese. The Roman troops were led by Stilicho, who for various 
reasons 3 offered no effective resistance. Alaric was next made 
Master of Soldiers in Illyricum, which satisfied him for four years. 
But his expectation of further promotion from Constantinople 
was probably ended by the anti-German crisis which had con- 
vulsed that city, 4 and he turned his eyes to the West. No better 
fortune, however, awaited him there. If he had hopes of coming 
to an arrangement with Stilicho, they were dashed to the ground 
when a similar anti-German reaction on western soil was followed 
by Stilicho's murder and the subsequent massacre of barbarians 
throughout Italy. Neither of Alaric's demands, permanent lands 
for his people and high office for himself in the Western part of 
the Empire, seemed likely to be granted. He marched into cen- 
tral Italy. The Roman government was by turns obstinate and 

1 See p. 39. 

2 It is true, however, that the importance of cavalry is noticeable early in the 
fourth century; and especially at the battle of Mursa in 351. 

3 See pp. 40, 58. 4 See pp. 60 ff. 


yielding. Angered by suspicion of treachery, Alaric finally 
invested Rome, which had bought him offon a previous occasion, 
and on August 24, 410, the Imperial City fell. The houses of 
the nobles were plundered and burnt, but few lives were lost. 
Churches were spared (Alaric was an Arian Christian) and no 
great damage was done to the ancient monuments. But the news 
of the disaster re-echoed through the civilized world; to many it 
seemed that the end of the world had come. 1 

Alaric now proposed to cross to Africa, either to settle his people 
permanently in that rich province, or to control Italy by holding 
her granary. But his transport ships were wrecked by a sudden 
storm, and Alaric himself died before the end of the year. It is 
important to remember that his invasion was not a hostile attack 
upon the Empire. Like other Germans, he regarded it as a neces- 
sary institution in which he and his people had a natural right to 
a place. This idea is found in a more remarkable form in Ataulf, 
his brother and successor. He had been heard to say that he 
aspired to 'turn Romania into Gothia', and make himself a 
Gothic Emperor. Later, becoming convinced that the Goths 
were too lawless and intractable to succeed the Romans, he 
resolved to use his people in the service of the Empire, and to 
earn the name of restorer of the Roman world (restitutor orbis 
Romani) . This change of view may already have taken place when 
he passed into Gaul, fought there in the Imperial interests, and 
at Narbonne married Galla Placidia, sister of the Emperor, who 
had been taken captive from Rome. This last act, however, 
offended Honorius; the Goths were cut off from their food 
supplies by a Roman fleet, and Ataulf led them into Spain, where 
he died in the following year. After a brief anti-Roman reaction, 
during which Galla Placidia was subjected to various indignities, 
Wallia, the next king, came to an agreement with Rome: in 
return for corn supplies Galla Placidia was to be sent back, and 
the Visigoths were to clear Spain of the invading Vandals, Sueves, 
and Alans. Having exterminated the Siling Vandals and most 

1 Augustine's greatest work, the De Ciuitate Dei, was written in response to the 
need felt by Christians for some philosophy of history which should explain this 
calamity, and account for the disturbing fact that the City, which had survived 
its pagan emperors, should have fallen at last when its rulers had embraced the 
Christian religion. 


of the Alans, the Visigoths received a permanent home, but in 
France, not Spain, where they had proved themselves toopowerfiil. 
Henceforth, as foederati, they held what is now Aquitaine, the 
region between Loire and Garonne. This district, which included 
Poitiers, Bordeaux, and Toulouse, still remained in the Empire, and 
its Roman inhabitants, though they had to surrender two-thirds 
of their lands to the new-comers, remained outside the authority 
of the Visigoths, and subject to the Imperial administration. 

Meanwhile the Burgundians, an East German people who had 
passed into Silesia about A.D. 150 and thence a hundred years 
later to the valley of the Main, had forced their way through the 
Alamans to the Rhine, which they reached at the end of the 
fourth century. Under their Gibichting dynasty (the name 
rouses Wagnerian echoes) who ruled at Worms, they were 
allowed lands on either side of the river in order to protect the 
frontier against Alamannic raids. Farther north, the two groups 
of peoples known as the Salian and Ripuarian Franks had for 
nearly two centuries been a continual danger, taking advantage 
of any crisis in the Empire to cross the river on plundering expedi- 
tions. The Emperor Julian had restored order (357-60) and the 
Salians were allowed to remain in Belgium as subjects of the 
Empire. The Ripuarians were for a time driven back over the 
Rhine; but the pressure, especially in the region of Cologne, grew 
ever more insistent, and in spite of repeated fortification, the great 
city was doomed. The administrative, capital of Gaul was 
removed from Treves to Aries early in the fourth century, and 
twenty years later Treves had already been stormed three times. 
Honorius, however, had renewed the treaty with the Franks, and 
in 416 officially Gaul was at peace. For a moment it may have 
seemed to Rome that the solution of her problem had been found, 
and that the invading masses were to be assimilated peacefully in 
the Western provinces. Three barbarian peoples were now settled 
in France (Salian Franks, Burgundians, and Visigoths), and two 
in Spain (Vandals and Sueves) . We have next to trace the wander- 
ings of the Vandals up to and beyond their Spanish settlement. 

The Vandals were an East German folk, who left the Baltic 
coast earlier than the Goths, and by the first century A.D. are 

4145 n 


found in Silesia and Bohemia. Owing to the disturbances caused 
by the Marcoman War, about A.D. 166 a general dispersion of 
peoples took place, and the Asding Vandals, whose name was 
probably derived from that of their royal house, moved south- 
ward to Hungary. The Siling Vandals remained in Silesia, 
which appears to be a Slavonic form of the earlier 'Silingia'; 
about a century later a number of them migrated to the middle 
Main. The Asdings were for some time weakened by conflicts 
with the Goths, but about 400 they found their territory on the 
Theiss too small to support them, and under its king Godigisel 
a large part of the population left its lands and joining the Alans 
(who had fled westward under the Hun onset) crossed the upper 
Danube. Here they were checked, and for five years dwelt inside 
the Empire as foederati. But in 406, to meet the danger from 
Alaric and his Visigoths, the Rhine frontier was denuded of 
troops. The chance was immediately taken. Asding Vandals 
and Alans, their numbers swollen by Sueves and by Siling Van- 
dals, streamed across the frozen river on the last night of the year. 
Their scattered bands of horsemen ravaged for two years the 
greater part of France, meeting with no organized opposition, 
though Toulouse, ably defended by its bishop, resisted all attacks. 
In contemporary poems we find graphic pictures of the invasion. 
Strong cities are given up to fire and sword: castles perched on 
precipitous rocks, lonely hermitages in the woods, churches 
guarded by relics of saints and martyrs fall to the barbarians. 
*Gaul smoked to heaven in one continuous pyre'. 1 

But the storm was passing. In the spring of 408 the Vandals 
and their allies crossed the Pyrenees and descended on Spain, 
where for another two years they continued their ravages. Rome 
now intervened, and a temporary settlement took place (410). 
The Asdings and Sueves were placed in Galicia, the Silings in 
Andalusia, while the Alans settled in Portugal and north-east 
Spain. However, Rome's old policy, 'divide and conquer', was 
not forgotten; one of the best-tried methods of dealing with her 
enemies was brought into play in 416 when WaUia, the Visigoth 
king, was commissioned to attack the barbarians in Spain. It 
was hoped that in this way the numbers on both sides would be 

1 Unofumavit Gallia tota rogo. 


reduced. Wallia performed his task with such success that the 
Silings were practically wiped out, and the remnant of the Alans 
forced to amalgamate with the Asding Vandals. Roman policy 
now followed its usual course. The Visigoths were recalled from 
Spain, where they had become too strong, and granted settle- 
ments in Aquitaine. Support was given to the Sueves against the 
augmented power of Vandals and Alans, who were consequently 
defeated and driven into southern Spain. Here, however, they 
rallied, beating back the Roman troops, and under assaults from 
sea and land the strongly fortified coast-towns fell successively 
into their hands. That Rome had seen clearly the danger of 
barbarian sea-power is shown by her efforts to retain the southern 
shores of France and Spain; it is significant that about this time 
a law was passed at Constantinople which punished with death 
any person who should instruct the barbarians in ship-building. 
But she was powerless to avert the peril. Seville and Cartagena 
were taken and plundered, and now a greater enterprise was in 

In 428 Gaiseric became king of the Vandals. One of the most 
remarkable figures of this period, he is more definitely a statesman 
than any other barbarian except Theoderic and Clovis, besides 
being a fearless and successful fighter. The invasion of Africa was 
directed by him, and it is probable that he weighed the conse- 
quences. On the one hand the country was in an unsettled state; 
the Moorish population was in revolt, and the Donatist schism had 
increased the disorder. Count Boniface, the Roman general, had 
insufficient troops, and in fact was not able to repel the invaders. 
On the other hand, the master of Africa held the key to Italy. 
This had long been recognized, and the possession of those pro- 
vinces formed an essential part of the strategy of Vespasian, and 
later of Severus. The loss of tribute which Rome suffered as a 
result of Gaiseric's conquest was considerable, but far more 
serious was the fact that her corn-supplies were now at the mercy 
of the barbarian. With the growth of Vandal sea-power, not only 
was Africa inaccessible to Imperial troops, but all the seaports, 
all the commerce of the western Mediterranean were exposed to 
the depredations of pirates, while Vandal forces might without 
warning be landed at any point in Italy or Sicily. 


In the year 429 Gaiseric led his people, numbering in all about 
80,000, across the Straits of Gibraltar. The rich plains were soon 
overrun, but Carthage and other strongholds could not be 
stormed. The Roman troops were reinforced, and after heavy 
defeats Gaiseric entered into a treaty by which the Vandals were 
settled asfoederati. This was clearly a calculated move. Four 
years later he suddenly seized Carthage. To prevent Roman 
counter-attacks, a powerful fleet was dispatched to ravage Sicily 
and Sardinia (which now formed the main source of Rome's 
food supplies), and in 442, as the price of peace, Rome was forced 
to recognize Gaiseric as the independent ruler of the greater part 
of the African provinces. His position was thus totally different 
from that of the Gothic and Burgundian kings, who still remained 
subjects of the Roman Empire. 

From time to time in European history a window is flung open 
and we look out on an unknown country of vast steppes, gravel 
or sandy deserts, gleaming black rocks, and high mountain 
pastures* Small groups of riders move over its surface, driving 
before them numbers of sheep and horses. In the summer they 
are found far to the north on the great plains which stretch up to 
the Siberian pine forests. At the approach of autumn tents are 
packed and the camps, consisting of five or six families, travel 
southward, traversing in succession the great loam-steppes, salt- 
steppes, gravel deserts, and wastes of drifting sand until they reach 
the basins of the Caspian and Ural Seas. Some of these tribes 
range between 10 of latitude every year, a thousand miles each 
way. The journey is necessary, for in winter the northern plain 
is deep in snow; in summer the heat shrivels up all the southern 
pastures. Centuries of these conditions have produced the nomad 
culture. To cover rapidly vast distances of desert land, a race of 
horses has been bred which will gallop for twenty miles at a 
stretch, and cover well over a hundred miles a day. The men 
spend their lives on horseback. Their feet are turned outwards, 
their calves little developed. They are of Mongol type: squat, 
big-headed, wheat-coloured, with slit eyes, large mouth, stiff 
black hair. Oxen cannot be used they would die in the deserts, 
moreover they are too slow. Agriculture is equally impossible for 


the real nomad. His staple food is the milk of mares and sheep 
prepared in various ways. His appetite is huge; but on occasion 
he can go without water for days and without food for weeks. 
This corresponds to his conditions of life, semi-starvation in 
winter, boundless plenty in summer. The camp is his social unit: 
grazing-grounds and wells will not accommodate larger num- 
bers. But the camp forms part of the clan, the clan of the tribe, 
the tribe of the folk; sometimes a great khan or chief sweeps the 
folks into a horde: if the horde is weaker than its neighbouring 
hordes, it is pushed out of the steppe zone and descends upon 
Persia, Armenia, South Russia, or Hungary. The horde may 
break up on the death of the Khan; or its component peoples may 
for centuries oppress the conquered race, returning in winter to 
demand their food supplies and their women. Culture in those 
regions becomes debased, the inhabitants treacherous and sub- 
servient. The conquerors themselves gradually form a mixed 
race and to some extent lose their Mongol characteristics. This 
has been the case with the Scythians whom the ancients knew and 
with the Magyars in our own time. 

It is clear that the invasions of these Altaic peoples are totally 
different from the German migrations. Teuton and Roman alike 
regarded the Huns with superstitious horror and physical disgust. 
Owing to their extraordinary mobility, magical powers were 
attributed to them, and their numbers were greatly exaggerated. 
Actually the greater part of the Hun forces consisted of conquered 
tribes, especially Gepids, with Alans, Goths, Slavs and others, 
whom they had dragged in their train as they advanced from 
South Russia into Central Europe. 1 Their head-quarters were 
in Hungary; Attila 5 who had succeeded to the rule in 433, together 
with his brother Bleda, whom he seems eventually to have set 
aside, exercised a loose but effective sway over the Ostrogoths 
and Slavs in South Russia, and the various German tribes on the 
Danube. From his central position he threatened equally both 
halves of the Empire, continually demanding the return of fugi- 
tives, and exacting an enormous tribute in gold. For the first six 
years, occupied with Slav conquests, he refrained from open 
attacks on the West, even lending Hun mercenaries to the Romans 

1 See p. 38. 


to fight for them against Burgundians and Visigoths; at the same 
time a humiliating treaty was imposed upon Constantinople. 
After 440 relations became more hostile; the Danube frontier was 
attacked and broken and northern Greece terribly ravaged. 
When peace was made in 447, huge indemnities were demanded 
and the boundary was fixed at Nish, considerably south of the 

In 450 came a change. Marcian was now Emperor in the East 
and further tribute to the Huns was refused. The West soon fol- 
lowed his example. Attila at this point seems to have determined 
on definite conquest. At Easter, 451, he forced the lower Rhine, 
and advanced on Orleans. He had hoped that the Visigoths in 
Aquitaine would remain neutral; but they decided to fight for 
Rome, and this turned the scale of the battle. On the Mauriac 
Plain, near Troyes, the issue was joined. The Visigoth king was 
killed, but after heavy losses on both sides Attila was finally 
driven to his camp, and the legend of Hun invincibility was at an 
end. Aetius, the Roman general, however, saw more danger for 
the moment in Visigoths than in Huns, and the latter were 
allowed to escape. 

The fight has often been regarded as one of the decisive battles 
of history; but it is probable that the Hun army was in any case 
doomed to speedy dissolution on the death of its ruler. The 
geography of Europe, rather than any political or military factors, 
saved it, here as in other struggles with the nomad culture, from 
sharing the fate of Asia, which remains sunk in barbarism to this 
day. 'Had Germany or France possessed steppes like Hungary, 
where the nomads could also have maintained themselves and 
thence completed their work of destruction, in all probability the 
light of West European civilization would long ago have been 
extinguished, the entire Old World would have been barbarized, 
and at the head of civilization to-day would be stagnant China* 

Attila now retired to Hungary, and in the following year 
invaded North Italy, when Aquileia and most of the other 
fortresses (but not Ravenna, safe in its marshes) fell before his 
assaults. His march on Rome, however, was not carried out. 
Famine, disease, and the arrival of Imperial reinforcements from 


the East added strength to the arguments which the embassy of 
Romans, impressively headed by Pope Leo I, laid before him in 
his camp on the Mincio. He returned home, to prepare war 
against Constantinople; but by the next year he was dead. 

His sons divided the inheritance; but the Danube peoples had 
seen their chance, and fell like wolves upon their hated overlords. 
Led by the Gepids, the various tribes of Goths, Rugii, Sueves, and 
Heruls inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Huns at the River 
Nedao (453) and drove them back into the Russian plains, only 
a few scattered bands remaining in Hungary. For the next 
hundred years the Danube region was a maelstrom of struggling 
peoples; strife was encouraged by East Roman diplomacy, pur- 
suing its traditional tactics against the barbarians. The Gepids, 
an East German folk, dominated Hungary and Rumania, con- 
testing with the Ostrogoths, now settled to the west of them, the 
possession of Sirmium (not far from Belgrade) which commanded 
the great Roman road from West to East. At the death of Theo- 
deric the Great (526), the Gepids seemed to have obtained their 
object; but a new claimant, in the shape of the Lombards, had 
by this time appeared, altering the whole Danube situation. An 
alliance between Gepids and Lombards was formed, but con- 
flicting interests proved too strong. Bitter and prolonged war- 
fare ended in 567 with the utter defeat of the Gepids, who play 
no further part in history. 

The lands north of the Black Sea between the Dniester on the 
west and the Don on the east (between, that is, the settlements of 
Visigoths and Alans) were occupied about 350 by the powerful 
Ostrogoths, under their King Ermanaric, who exercised a loose 
hegemony over the Slav tribes to the north of them. The Hun 
invasion broke up this empire, and drove the Goths westward, 
in fugitive bands, to the Balkans, Many of the Ostrogoths, after 
an unsuccessful stand on the Dniester, joined their Visigothic 
kinsfolk in crossing the Danube, 1 and took part in the fight at 
Adrianople. In 380 they entered into a pact with Theodosius I, 
and were given settlements in Lower Hungary. Although still 
dominated by the Huns, who had extended their rule into 

1 Sec p. 44. 


Hungary, they were now united under one king, and later under 
his three sons, except for scattered bodies which entered Roman 
sendee, or those who joined the mixed forces of Radagaisus, 
which made a sudden and dangerous inroad into Italy in 404-5 
and were annihilated by Stilicho on the heights of Fiesole. As 
subject-allies they fought for Attila at the Mauriac Plain, but 
took a prominent part in the coalition of peoples which overthrew 
the Huns after Attila's death, while more than holding their 
own in the struggles of Danube tribes which followed. In 471 
Theoderic, afterwards called the Great, became one of their 
chieftains. He had spent ten years of his boyhood as a hostage 
at Constantinople, and like Alaric (whose career resembles his 
in many ways) must have learnt a good deal about the organiza- 
tion of a civilized state, though to the end of his days he was 
unable to write, and in order to sign his name had to make use 
of a gold stencil. 

Having exhausted the resources of Pannonia, his people moved 
about this time to the neighbourhood of Salonika, whence they 
exercised continual pressure on the capital. The next ten years 
saw a triangular contest between the Emperor Zeno, Theoderic 
and another Theoderic surnamed Strabo (also an Ostrogoth) 
who commanded a contingent of his countrymen in the Roman 
service. The Emperor's policy was to play off one Theoderic 
against the other; but on the death of Theoderic Strabo in 481, 
some other means had to be found of relieving Constantinople 
from the disastrous subsidies. Odoacer 1 had ruled Italy since 476, 
but Zeno had given him only formal recognition, and was waiting 
his chance to regain control over the West. It is doubtful whether, 
after his experience of him, he expected Theoderic to prove a 
more amenable vice-regent than Odoacer ; but the first considera- 
tion was to rid Illyria of a crushing incubus; and if Odoacer and 
Theoderic destroyed each other, only good could come of it. 

Theoderic accepted the mission, and set out for Italy in 488, 
leading, as Imperial magister militum, a mixed body of Ostrogoth 
and other adventurers. The decisive battle of the campaign was 
fought on the Adda in August 490, and Odoacer, utterly defeated, 
hastened to take refuge in impregnable Ravenna. The Roman 

1 See p. 60. 


Senate at this point decided to support Theoderic, and he was 
acknowledged ruler of Italy. Several towns still held out for 
Odoacer, and Theoderic successfully incited the Roman popula- 
tion to a general massacre of these barbarian garrisons. The 
Vandals also were ravaging Sicily; after hard fighting they were 
forced to give up their claims to the island. Odoacer, finally, was 
still to be reckoned with; Theoderic entered upon the last stage 
of his conquest when he began the three years siege of Ravenna. 

The imagination of the Germans was haunted by this strange 
city, for it is celebrated in the cycle of saga which surrounds the 
name of Theoderic. Till yesterday it was a silent and ruinous 
town, a cluster of bell-towers in a steamy plain of malarial swamps ' 
and maize fields, traversed by sluggish streams half choked with 
reeds and water-lilies. Sonlething of its former glory still remains. 
San Vitale, its most magnificent church, glowing with jewelled 
mosaics and translucent marble, belongs to the time of Justinian, 
when Ravenna reached the summit of its beauty. During four 
centuries, however, it had been famous as the head-quarters of 
a Roman fleet. Washed by the Adriatic, its temples and store- 
houses stood upon islands rising from c anals as Venice does to-day. 
The sea had gradually receded, but still at this period the city 
was connected with the mainland only by a long causeway 
through the marshes which, continuing through the town, con- 
ducted the traveller to the battlements and lighthouse of the sea- 
port Classis. For nearly a century it ha'd been the residence of 
the Emperor and his court. Honorius and Valentinian III, those 
shadowy figures, lived out their quiet lives here among the 
intrigues of women and eunuchs, priests and courtiers, far from 
the dust and clamour of a changing world, where Stilicho and 
Aetius led the last Roman legions against the invaders. 

Here in a small cruciform building, whose walls and ceiling 
glitter with gold stars, spangled on a deep azure background, 
lies the massive sarcophagus of Galla Placidia. This Roman 
princess, whose life mirrors the history of her times, was daughter 
of Theodosius the Great, and sister of Arcadius and Honorius, 
Emperors in East and West; she was taken prisoner at the sack 
of Rome, became the wife of Ataulf, king of the Visigoths, and 
went with him into France and Spain. Later she married 


Constantius, the famous Roman general, and after his death and 
that of Honorius sh.e was for twenty-five years virtual ruler of the 
West during the minority and the weak reign of her effeminate 
son, Valentinian III. Her celebrated beauty, and the turn of her 
fortunes, curiously entangled with those of Western Europe, com- 
bine to make her the most romantic figure of the century. But she 
has still another aspect, no less characteristic of the times. Under 
her influence the atmosphere of the Court became yet more 
heavily charged with the incense-clouds of mystical religion. 
Perhaps it is not upon the battle-fields of the frontier but in the 
twilight of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia that we should 
interrogate the dim ghosts of this obscure period. Their motives 
are for ever hidden; but some glimmer of understanding may 
strike our eyes when they are met by the mysterious symbols and 
hieratic figures of doves and deer, sheep and fountains, flowers 
and interlacing vines, Evangelists and Saints, which shine out of 
the darkness, presaging an unearthly happiness. 

Then, as now, Ravenna kept her secrets, Theoderic, unable 
to penetrate the defences, came to terms with Odoacer. Both 
were to exercise equal rule over Italy. Treachery seems to have 
been intended from the first. Ten days after his entry Theoderic 
invited Odoacer to a feast. As they sat at table, two men knelt 
before Odoacer with a petition and clasped his hands. Theo- 
deric's hidden soldiers rushed out, but hesitated to strike down 
the old man. Theoderic himself stepped forward and raised his 
sword. 'Where is God?' cried Odoacer. 'Thus didst thou to my 
friends/ said Theoderic, and clave him from the collar-bone to 
the loin. Surprised at his own stroke, he exclaimed, The wretch 
can have no bones in his body.' Orders had already been given 
for a massacre of the hostile mercenaries, and Theoderic met with 
no further resistance to his claims to the lordship of Italy. 



rriHE preceding chapters have dealt with the Roman and Bar- 
JL barian worlds of A.D. 395. It has been necessary to anticipate 
events by tracing, so far as possible in isolation, the wanderings 
of the principal Barbarian peoples. What was the result of the 
impact of the two cultures, as exhibited in the confused and 
troubled history of the fifth century? The process should perhaps 
rather be called the acceleration of a gradual development; for 
it must be remembered that the population of large portions of 
the Empire was already barbarian, that the army had long been 
predominantly German, and that no leader of the invaders, with 
the possible exception of Gaiseric, desired the downfall of the 
Roman Empire. 

It is impossible to explain psychologically the actions of the 
chief Roman figures in this period; access has been forbidden to 
the Courts of Ravenna and Constantinople, where, like jewelled 
Eastern potentates in sacred chambers guarded jealously from 
the outside world, sat the two sons of Theodosius the warrior 
Emperor. It is true that these pauvres jeunes princes, pales fleurs du 
gynecee, as Duchesne calls them, were merely the centre of the 
multifarious intrigues of the palace; but of these intrigues our 
knowledge is scarcely greater. Nearest to the Emperor stood the 
Grand Chamberlain, a eunuch, who controlled the Imperial 
Household, and by enlarging the scope of his department sought 
to increase the personal government of the sovereign at the 
expense of the great State offices. In the West the feudal land- 
owners of France and Italy proved too strong for the central 
power. In the East the heads of the civil service, being mainly of 
humble origin, showed less resistance to the absolutism of the 
Byzantine monarchy, and the all-powerful Chamberlain was 
free, like Eutropius, to choose the Emperor a wife or intrigue with 
disloyal generals. The courtiers and officials, however, in both 
palaces were a strong faction, calling loudly on occasion for anti- 
German measures. The women of the household played a great 


part though perhaps not so great as romance-scenting Byzan- 
tine historians would have us believe often controlling the 
feebler emperors as they themselves were, for the most part, con- 
trolled by their spiritual advisers. The atmosphere is thick with 
suspicion and self-seeking. Spies are everywhere, favourites rise 
and fall, no moral principles of action are observable, no friend- 
ship is safe. 

Against this background stands a series of great figures, the 
magistri militum of the fifth century. In their hands is the real 
power, for upon the army, which they control, depend the 
fortunes of the Empire. Being for the most part barbarians, they 
cannot, as the generals of the third century had done, depose the 
emperor and assume the purple. Hated and feared by the anti- 
German party and the Emperor, they are nevertheless indis- 
pensable and omnipotent. Sometimes this hate over powers all 
other considerations. Honorius executes Stilicho (408)4 Valen- 
tinian III strikes down Aetius (454) and soon afterwards meets 
with a similar fate. In the next stage it is the magister militum, 
Ricimer (d. 472), who sets up puppet emperors, killing or depos- 
ing them if they prove too independent. Finally, Odoacer (476) 
dispenses with the Emperor and rules Italy in person as nominal 
vice-regent of the power at Constantinople. 

The ascendency of Stilicho lasted from 395 to his death in 408. 
He was constantly accused of treachery; it is not difficult to see 
the reason for these charges. He had repeatedly allowed Alaric 
to retire, both in Greece (397) and in Italy (403) when he could 
almost certainly have destroyed his forces, and thus prevented 
the fall of Rome in 4 1 o. Further, he had not saved Gaul from the 
terrible invasion of 406 which delivered two provinces to the 
ravages of the Vandals and their allies. His policy appears to 
have been governed by three principles. He had been the right- 
hand man of Theodosius, and was made guardian of his young 
sons in 395. Personal loyalty was a German characteristic, and 
Stilicho never wavered in his loyalty to the Theodosian House. 
All means might be used to gain ascendency over Arcadius, but 
the Emperor's person was never in danger. And it is a notable 
fact that Stilicho allowed no resistance to be made when Honorius 
gave the order for his execution. His second principle, which 


may have been adopted later when the anti-German reaction at 
Constantinople destroyed his hopes in that quarter, is the deter- 
mination to secure the Illyrian prefecture 1 an invaluable re- 
cruiting-ground for the Western half of the Empire. To this 
end he employed the forces of Alaric; on account of his attempts 
on it he was declared a public enemy by Arcadius's government; 
for its sake he sacrificed Gaul to the barbarian onset which it was 
his duty to stem. The third principle was imposed upon him by 
the fact that he was a barbarian. The rapid growth of German 
influence in high quarters naturally met with his approval; 
German and Roman had an equal right to a place within the 
Empire. This may account for his view of Alaric as a useful ally 
rather than a public enemy; it certainly accounts for his support 
of Gai'nas and the German party in Constantinople; and it amply 
explains the hostility of the Roman conservatives, which brought 
him finally to his death. 

The next period (408-23) saw the establishment of barbarian 
federate settlements in Gaul and Spain, and the skilful direction 
of these movements 2 was due to Constantius, Roman magister 
militum, who married Galla Placidia in 417, and became the 
father of Valentinian III. His work in Gaul is of the first impor- 
tance. That France to-day can boast herself a Latin country must 
be ascribed partly to the fact that he made it possible for the 
barbarians to settle comparatively peacefully in Roman terri- 
tory, absorbing the laws and institutions of the inhabitants. New 
military arrangements were made in north-west Gaul, and a 
focus of Roman influence was provided by the Council of the 
Seven Provinces, held annually at Aries, and attended by repre- 
sentatives from both Roman and Visigothic territory. 

Constantius died in 421, and the Emperor Honorius in 423. 
Over the next thirty years (423-53) falls the mighty shadow of 
Aetius, 'the last of the Romans'. Applied to his character and 
exploits, the title may be justified. But he was in constant opposi- 
tion to the 'Roman party' at Ravenna; and he maintained him- 
self against Galla Placidia and the rival generals, Felix and Boni- 
face, only by the help of his Hunnish mercenaries. His chief care 
was Gaul; the Visigoths, seeking to expand into Province, were 

1 See Appendix A. 2 Cf. pp. 46-7. 


thrown back; the Burgundian kingdom of Worms, which had 
been plundering its neighbours, was practically wiped out (436) 
by means ofHunfoederati (the Nibelungenliedhas taken this as the 
work of Attila unless 'EtzeT be a conflation of the names Attila 
and Aetius) , and the remnant settled in Savoy. Ironically enough, 
it was Aetius who met the invasion of Attila in 451, and with 
Visigoth help turned it back upon the Mauriac Plain. Three 
years later he was stabbed by Valentinian III in the Council- 
chamber; and the murder of Valentinian himself in the following 
year extinguished the Theodosian House. 

The final stage is now reached. In twenty years no less than 
nine puppet-emperors appear, made and unmade by the magistri 
militum, Ricimer and his successors. The Vandals attack Italy 
with impunity, and Rome herself is taken and plundered. The 
semblance of Roman authority fades out in Gaul and Spain, after 
the assassination of Majorian, who had proved too capable an 
Emperor to suit his creator Ricimer. Odoacer, a leader of the 
German, foederati in Italy, granted their demand to receive settle- 
ments on Italian soil, as other barbarians had done in Gaul and 
Spain, and was acclaimed their king (476) . He set aside the boy- 
emperor Romulus Augustulus, created by his predecessor (the 
legitimate ruler, Nepos, whom the East acknowledged, had fled 
two years previously to Dalmatia), and until the coming of 
Theoderic ruled Italy just as Ricimer had done, save that after 
the death of Nepos (480) the. constitutional sovereign was no 
longer a puppet at Rome or Ravenna, but the emperor at Con- 
stantinople, for whom, in theory, Odoacer acted as vice-regent. 

The history of the Eastern half of the Empire runs curiously 
parallel to that of the West. The crises appear even more serious; 
but they are successively surmounted. Let us trace the contrast. 
In the year 400 German influence at Constantinople reached 
its climax. Rufinus, the praetorian prefect, and Eutropius, the 
eunuch chamberlain, had been put out of the way; the Roman 
party, though supported by the empress, Eudoxia, was helpless. 
Gainas, the barbarian magister militum, was supreme; his troops 
were quartered in the capital; and the hopes of Stilicho, pursuing 
a similar and concerted policy in the West, might well be raised. 


But thunder was in the air. The Gothic troops were insolent, and 
more odious still, they were Arian heretics. One summer evening 
the storm broke. A brawl developed, spreading rapidly through 
the city. The gates were shut, the soldiers hunted down and 
massacred by the populace, or burnt alive in the church where 
they had taken refuge. On that night German power was broken 
for ever. A few years later the Visigoth menace, which since 
Adrianople had hung like a cloud over the Balkans, moved west- 
ward when Alaric turned his steps towards Italy. 

Arcadius and Honorms were succeeded by two equally in- 
capable princes, Theodosius II and Valentinian III. Under the 
regiment of women, the Eastern court joined in the doctrinal 
contest between Constantinople and Alexandria, a battle big 
with political consequences. 1 Towards the close of the reign the 
Huns pressed even more heavily on the East than on -the West; 
its provinces were devastated, its citizens crushed under ruinous 
taxation to provide subsidies. Once more, the peril passed west- 
wards, and vanished at the death of Attila. The end of the Theo- 
dosian line brought more capable emperors on the scene; but in 
the West it was too late; a Majorian could do nothing against a 
Ricimer. In the East this dangerous power of the ntagistri militum 
encountered several checks. The supreme command of a Stilicho 
or Aetius over all military resources, field army and frontier forces 
alike, was never permitted at Constantinople. 2 The threat of 
Vandal attacks in her rear increased Italy's dependence on her 
armies; Constantinople was not menaced so nearly. And when 
the German danger revived, effective counterforces were dis- 
covered by Leo and his successors. 

The - usual ambition of the barbarian magister militum was to 
marry into the Imperial House. This had been achieved by 
Aspar, the powerful Alan general, who on the death of the 
Emperor Marcian had contrived to elevate Leo, his creature, to 
the throne (457), and had forced him, after long temporizing, to 
give his daughter in marriage to Aspar's son, who might now 
expect to become the next Emperor. But Leo had other plans. 
Strong detachments of Isaurians, a fierce mountain race from one 
of the provinces of Asia Minor, were summoned to the capital, 

1 Gf. p. 35. a Cf. Appendix A. 


and their leader Tarasicodissa (the original name of Zeno, the 
future Emperor) became a rival magister militum> and was married 
to another daughter of Leo. A new bodyguard was created, con- 
sisting largely of Isaurians. The machinery for a coup d'etat was 
now installed, but Leo hesitated to use it, and meanwhile Aspar's 
influence grew, while the State, weakened by the costly failure 
of the naval expedition against the Vandals (468) could offer no 
resistance. At last the moment came. Aspar was treacherously 
murdered at a banquet, and his party was broken up, an attack 
on the Palace being frustrated by the new guards (471). The 
Gothic tribes, however, on whom Aspar had depended, were still 
at large in Thrace, and under their leader Theoderic Strabo 1 
continually menaced the safety of the capital. The Isaurians were 
unpopular, and when the court party, making use of Theoderic's 
troops, set up a rival candidate, Zeno, who had now become 
Emperor, had to flee back to his native Isauria. But here, too, 
a remedy was at hand. Theoderic the Amal (who was to become 
Theoderic the Great), king of the Ostrogoths in Macedonia, was 
ready to compete with his namesake for the titles and subsidies 
of Constantinople. By his aid Zeno returned to power; by playing 
off the two chieftains against each other, the ascendancy of either 
was prevented; and soon after the death of Theoderic Strabo, 
Zeno contrived to dispatch Theoderic the Amal to the conquest 

The German danger was gone; others remained. Isauria was 
a focus of rebellion. Bulgarian nomads had appeared on the 
lower Danube. Nationalism was growing in Armenia, Syria, and 
Egypt. Arabs raided the eastern frontier, Blemmyes the south. 
Vandal pirates -held up the Mediterranean traffic. But these were 
minor difficulties. Persia, occupied with Hun invasions, was no 
longer troublesome. Barbarian influences within the Empire had 
been kept under. At the close of the century, the Roman Empire 
was still in being. 

Not many years passed before the federate settlements in Gaul 2 
sought to extend their boundaries. The Visigoths in Aquitaine, 
whose attempts on the precious Riviera coast were frustrated by 
"Of. p. 54. * Of. p. 47- 


Majorian, had turned upon Spain, and by 476 had occupied the 
whole country with the exception of Galicia, where the Sueves 
still held out against them. About the same time a strong attack 
was launched upon Provence. Italy could send no help, and 
Euric's Visigoth dominion, now at its fullest extent, reached from 
the Straits of Gibraltar to the estuary of the Loire, and from the 
Atlantic to the Alps. Meanwhile the Burgundians in Savoy had 
captured Lyons, and the whole basin of the Rhone from Geneva 
to the neighbourhood of Avignon was in their hands. Hitherto 
the Salian Franks had apparently carried out their duties as 
foederati. The representative of Rome in northern Gaul was a 
curious figure, characteristic of the changing times. Aegidius had 
been, under Majorian, a commander of Roman troops in Gaul. 
Cut off from Italy, by the solid block of Visigoth and Burgundian 
territory, he became practically an independent ruler, and his 
son Syagrius succeeded him in this anomalous position. His 
capital was Soissons. The barbarians knew him as the rex 
Romanorum a phrase meaningless to Roman ears. Childeric, a 
chief of the Salian Franks, had helped the Roman forces on the 
Loire in repelling Saxon raiders and the northward thrusts of the 
Visigoths. He saw clearly the advantage of keeping northern 
Gaul free for his own advance. Meanwhile the Ripuarian Franks, 
from their centres at Cologne and Mayence, were spreading to 
right and left of the Rhine. 

In 482 Childeric died, and was succeeded by his sixteen-year 
old son, Clovis. The character of this strange genius has suf- 
fered from the sagas of his contemporary admirers. They wor- 
shipped a hero made in their own image; and so the brutality, 
cunning, and treachery of the Franks have been expressed in 
their highest common measure in the legendary figure of Clovis. 
The picture was probably more accurate than the Catholic 
presentation of him as pious Defender of the Faith, waging right- 
eous war upon heretics and heathen. But neither does him 
justice. His full stature can be seen only in his achievements, 
which in less than thirty years transformed the face of Gaul. 
Federal obligations had ceased to have any force, and Syagrius 
was the first object of attack. Routed near Soissons, he fled to 
the Visigoths, but was surrendered by them under threats and 


put to death by Clovis. All France north of the Loire (except 
Brittany, whose Celtic tribes, joined by Romano-British refu- 
gees, remained independent) fell speedily into Prankish hands. 
Meantime, by murder, conquest, or stratagem, Clovis had 
gained supremacy over the rest of the Salians, and by the same 
means finally added the Ripuarian Franks to his Empire, 
and after heavy fighting hurled back the Alamans beyond the 

Before the completion of this work a momentous event had 
taken place the baptism of Clovis into the Catholic Church. 
The significance of this will be noticed later on. Its immediate 
effects were to turn every Catholic priest in Visigothic or Burgun- 
dian territory into an agent working for the victory of Clovis, to 
gain him the support of the Roman population in Gaul, and to 
make him a desirable ally, from the Byzantine point of view, 
against the Arian rulers of the West. Helped by these advantages 
and by the weakness of Euric's successor, Alaric II, he attacked 
the Visigoths, and after several unsuccessful campaigns finally 
overthrew them at the great battle of Vougle, near Poitiers (507) . 
Alaric was killed, and his Gallic dominions fell to the conqueror, 
except the Riviera coast-line, which timely action on the part 
of the Ostrogoths had secured for Italy. The Visigoths were 
henceforward confined to Spain. Burgundy was the final victim, 
but its conquest was not completed till twenty years after the 
death of Clovis in 51 1. Many devices were employed; open'war- 
fare alternated with marriage alliances, support of factions, 
treachery, assassination. Burgundy put up a gallant defence, 
succumbing only to superior forces in 532.* 

The union of two cultures is a biological process, and the result 
is no more capable of exact analysis than the character of a man 
can be explained on Mendelian principles. In the earlier stages, 
however, a distinct duality can be observed. Most of these king- 
doms fell long before it had been resolved, and even in the Prank- 
ish realm full unity was not achieved until the days of Charle- 
magne. Duality was inherent in the nature of settlement, which 
was itself an inheritance from the Roman Republic. Troops 

1 See p. 76. 


quartered in the provinces were lodged by the inhabitants, who 
gave up to their 'guests' a certain proportion (usually one-third) 
of their estates. Under this system ofhospitium, bands offoederati 
('allies', in theory), were found in almost every province during 
the fourth century, and the Goths and Vandals were probably 
regarded, at first, by the Romans of Italy, Gaul, and Spain, as 
a similar but temporary nuisance. Thus the population was 
sharply divided: on one side the civil inhabitants, carrying on 
the administration, agriculture, and trade, on the other, the 
soldiers barbarian heretics for the most part, subject to their 
own laws and customs, having no abiding city and owing no 
loyalty save to their leaders. 

Monarchy was universal; but it was not the Roman type, 
evolved from the 'republican' fiction of Augustus. The German 
king or chief had been elected of old by the assembly of freemen, 
who raised him on a shield, thus acclaiming him their leader. 
A king of strong character, sprung from a famous family such as 
the Amal, Balthid, or Meroving, could browbeat the circle of 
stubborn warriors, and with successful warfare or invasion his 
power increased. When Alaric, Gaiseric, and Theoderic led 
bands of mixed races into Roman territory, their rule ceased to 
be national, and became a personal lordship, resting on a military 
basis. The assembly disappeared; the racial aristocracy of lesser 
chiefs gave way to a new nobility of service, gathered round the 
king's person as seneschal, marshal, constable, or rulihg the dis- 
tricts of his realm as counts (comites), holding both civil and 
military authority. This primitive system was very different from 
the Roman hierarchy of officials. Any Prankish courtier, for 
instance, could be called upon to undertake special missions. The 
Roman financial system survived in part, even in the Vandal 
kingdom. Indirect taxes remained tolls on bridges and ferries, 
harbour dues and the like and the Roman population con- 
tinued to pay income-tax as long as the registers were kept. But 
the Germans did not understand direct taxation. It was not 
justified by their political system, as we see from the Franks. The 
king was absolute: the realm was his private property, inheritable 
by his heirs; its revenues went to his 'hoard'. He owed no duties 
to his subjects ; there were no public services to be paid for. Viewed 


in this light, taxation was simply impious exaction, carried out 
usually by armed forces. When the king had an access of piety 
or a dangerous illness, the bishops would beseech him to save his 
soul by burning the accounts. 

Another legacy of the old system ofhospitium was that Germans 
and Romans continued to be subject to their own laws. 1 The 
inconvenience was, however, lessened by a certain degree of 
compromise. In the more Romanized kingdoms of Visigoths 
and Burgundians, the Teutonic law code had borrowed much 
from the Roman legislation; in the Prankish realm the Salic law, 
utterly different from the Roman, became general in the districts 
whose population was predominantly Teuton. 

The main principle of German law was the superseding of the 
old family blood-feuds by the establishment of the 'King's Peace'. 
For this purpose a detailed tariff of compensation fees was laid 
down. Each individual had his wergild (price of a man), varying 
with his age and status, which was paid to his relatives by the 
man who killed him. Every finger had its price; each wound was 
carefully estimated. The Salic law is especially comprehensive; 
in thefts of cattle or pigs, the age and condition of the animal, 
the place and circumstances of the act, are all specified. These 
compositions are distinct from the penalty, and serve only to 
prevent the matter from developing into a feud. The importance 
of the family as a social unit is shown also in the most famous 
provision of Salic law, which bars the inheritance of females to 
an estate;. the land is thus divided among the sons, but does not 
pass out of the family. 

The amount of the wergild gives valuable information about 
the organization of Frank society. The courtier's wergild (600 
solid!) was three times that of the free warrior; that of the free 
Roman (of all classes) was half the free Frank's, and equalled 
that of the Frankish laeti, a dependent class midway between 
freemen and slaves, corresponding in some ways to the Roman 
coloni, whose wergild was, however, less than theirs. The more 
skilful unfree workers, such as goldsmiths, had a higher wergild 
than the common labourers. The position of the Roman is 
significant of his degradation. But he could improve his standing 

1 Cf.p.249. 





by entering the king's service, as was done by many Gallo-Roman 

It is probable that the full force of the invasion was confined 
to Belgium and northern France. The heart of the Frankish king- 
dom lay north and east of the Loire, and included the cities of 
Orleans, Paris, Rheims, Soissons, Cambrai, Cologne. One may 
picture this country as dotted with villages and farmsteads, 
groups of low, thatched houses and barns, of wood or wattie-and- 
daub, separated by a palisade from the gardens, orchards, 
meadow and ploughland. Practically all our modern meats, 
fruit and vegetables were known, as we see from the treatise on 
diet which Anthimus, a Byzantine doctor, composed for Clovis, 
to whom he had been sent by Theoderic the Great. Bacon and 
hard boiled eggs are favourite dishes. The latter are not recom- 
mended. Fresh cheese is good, but a man who eats it when old 
and hard 'needs no other poison'. Fish, poultry, and game, meat 
garnished with vegetables, sauces of wine and honey, prepara- 
tions of milk, beer, and mead are mentioned. Agriculture had 
made progress. Besides hand-querns, big ox-driven mills were 
used and the Roman water-mill was becoming known. There 
was little commerce in this region; foreign imports were confined 
to luxuries, such as ivories, jewels, cloves, pepper, dates, and figs. 
The ruling class lived mainly in the country; over the narrow 
streets of the walled towns the bishops held sway, and gave 
staunch support to Clovis's regime. In return, rich gifts were made 
to the Church- Clovis and his sons built abbeys in Paris. Nicetius, 
bishop of Treves, was able to bring Italian workmen to restore, 
somewhat shoddily, the old basilican church. Limestone pillars, 
their capitals carved with masks, replaced the Corinthian 
columns of granite, which had burst when the city was burnt by 
the Franks. Walls were painted to imitate the former marble 
facing. Other churches, however, were resplendent with mosaic, 
gilding and stained glass. In 470 the basilica which covered the 
tomb of St. Martin of Tours, a famous centre of pilgrimage, was 
rebuilt with a hemi-cyclic choir, modelled on the pilgrim shrines 
of the East, such as the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. This form 
was to develop into the chevets of the Romanesque and Gothic 


cathedrals of France. Eastern influence that of the Graeco- 
Sarmatian art of the Crimean region with its stylized animal 
forms, its dark glowing jewels or glass cubes set in gold filigree 
is apparent also in the ornaments of Goths and Franks. Sidonius 
shows us a brilliant picture of a young Prankish noble and his 
escort in festal garb. Their striped, close-fitting tunics are covered 
by green cloaks with purple borders, and skin mantles over these; 
they have bare knees and skin boots; their horse-trappings glitter 
with jewels, and with baldrics, swords, throwing-axes, spears, and 
flashing shields with gold bosses and silver rims they march 
behind the prince, who is conspicuous in 'flame-red mantle, with 
much glint of ruddy gold and gleam of snowy silken tunic, and 
his fair hair, red cheeks and white skin according with the hues 
of his equipment 3 . 1 

Sidonius Apollinaris, Gallo-Roman noble, politician and poet, 
who later became bishop of Clermont in the Auvergne, is our 
chief authority for the conditions of southern Gaul at this time. 
It is a strange scene, a meeting-place of ancient and medieval 
manners. A few nobles had taken refuge in rock-perched castles, 
but most still lived in huge country-houses, spending their days, 
as in Hadrian's time, in their libraries, baths, ball-games, hunt- 
ing or in rounds of visits to friends. They dine amid purple hang- 
ings, clouds of incense, massive silver plate, rose-wreathed cups, 
and are entertained by cithara, flute, and Corinthian dancing- 
girls. Elegant poems and letters are exchanged, in which the 
'skin-clad' barbarians, in whose kingdoms they lived, are sedu- 
lously ignored. But Rome's degradation cannot be concealed. 
One may lampoon, in secret, the gross Burgundians or the man- 
ners of the Visigoth court, but in public one must pay them ful- 
some flattery. Some even, despairing of Rome, revived dreams 
of Gallic separatism, and put their faith in the semi-Romanized 
Burgundians and Visigoths. With a great wealth of detail, all 
the varied life of South Gaul passes before us. The Visigoth 
court, its tall king, his hunting, meals, devotions; Saxon, Herul, 
Prankish types; the Gallo-Roman squirearchy, literary, bucolic, 
or pious; the bishop, the monk, the merchant: vineyards and 
farms, inns, travellers and robbers, politics and epigrams, land- 

1 Mr. O. M. Dalton's translation. 


2 inches 



scapes, family scenes. Sidonius did not live to see the conquests 
of Clovis, but it is probable, from other evidence, that they 
did not produce radical changes here, Roman civilization was 
not rooted out; the barbarian, in childish admiration, plucked 
at the frail flower, already long past its bloom; and it withered 
in his grasp. 

The Italian kingdom of Theoderic stands apart from those of 
the other German rulers. It is a unique attempt to use the system 
ofkospitium to preserve Roman civilization entire. 'My kingdom^, 
he wrote to the Emperor Anastasius, 'is an imitation of yours. 5 
His own position was anomalous. He was king of his own 
followers, Ostrogoth and others. Over the Roman population 
of Italy he ruled, apparently, as the Emperor's vice-regent, hold- 
ing the titles ofmagister militum and patricius, as Stilicho, Ricimer, 
or Odoacer had done. Theoderic avoided an explicit statement 
of this position; it would have admitted the right of the Emperor 
to control and even depose him, as a mere temporary official. 
But he acted in accordance with the theory. He struck no coins 
in his own name; his laws were edicta applicable only to the Italian 
provinces. The Emperor alone might place his head upon the 
coins, and make leges which held good throughout the Empire, 
The Roman civil service remained intact; at the Court were no 
seneschals or marshals, but praetorian prefect, magister officiorum, 
and the rest. The Senate continued to sit at Rome and was 
specially honoured by Theoderic. The provinces were governed 
and taxed, as before, by Roman officials. There was a deep cleft 
between Goth and Roman, military and civil. Inter-marriage 
was forbidden. The two sections met only at the top, in the 
person of Theoderic, who was himself a Roman citizen, though 
he could not confer this status on another. The Goths were sub- 
ject to district comites, as in the other German kingdoms. New 
officials, the saiones, were created to protect the Romans from 
oppression by Goths, and inquire into abuses as the agentes in 
rebus had formerly done. 

The 'Edict of Theoderic' gives a clear picture of his policy. It 
is a law code taken almost entirely from Roman legislation, with 
a few significant innovations. Special efforts are made, as in the 


Salic law, to replace family blood feuds by recourse to legal 
expedients. The privileged position of the landowners is main- 
tained, but so are the measures against oppression of the coloni. 
The shortage of labour is shown in the severe laws against kid- 
napping. The lower classes benefited indirectly, not only from 
the peace and order of Theoderic's strong rule ('the town gates 
were never shut!' exclaims an admiring contemporary), but also 
by the strict regulation of the markets and the control of food 
prices. Since it was to his interest to feed the army cheaply, 
profiteering by the landowners was checked, and very low prices 
prevailed. The general purpose of the Edict is conservative. 
There are no theories behind it. Roman civilization is to be pre- 
served for ever, unchanging, safe within the ring of Gothic spears. 
Theoderic was fortunate in his panegyrist, Cassiodorus, who 
presents his master's policy in rolling phrases which, though 
absurdly grandiose and pedantic, achieve occasionally a real 
eloquence, and display always a generous and honest spirit. But 
the measures speak for themselves. Taxes were remitted, Roman 
citizens ransomed from the Burgundian raiders. Frontier castles 
were fortified. Walls, aqueducts, and theatres in Rome, Ravenna, 
Verona, and other towns were restored. The 'bread and circuses' 
of the capital were zealously maintained. A magnificent palace, 
several churches, and a remarkable mausoleum were constructed 
at Ravenna, where the Court of Theoderic marked the centre of 
a strong government. It was also the mediator of culture, or at 
least of the toys of civilization, to the German kingdoms. Gundo- 
bad of Burgundy received a water-clock, while to Clovis were 
sent, with suitable compliments, a musician and a Byzantine 
doctor. Several poets from north Italy went to seek their fortunes 
at the courts of Gaul. A minor literary renaissance took place. 
One centre was Milan, whose grammar schools, attended even 
by boys from Gaul, flourished under the auspices of Bishop 
Laurence. Here, and at Ravenna, were the Romans who, like 
Cassiodorus and Ennodius, supported the Gothic regime. The 
opposition was to be found at Rome. The famous schools of the 
capital, with their long traditions and endowed professorships, 
were the stronghold of the ancient senatorial houses and the old 
learning. Many of these families had connexions with Constanti- 


nople; and Theoderic came later to suspect intrigues in that 
quarter against Arian and Gothic rule. 

The greatest name here is Boethius, one of those rare figures 
who sum up in themselves all the knowledge of their time. 
Scientist, theologian, philosopher, and poet, he was consul at the 
age of thirty, and performed important services for Theoderic. 
But perhaps he represents his age most truly in the contrast 
between the appearance and the reality of his position. In a 
spiteful epigram, c On Boethius girt with a sword', Ennodius 
brings out the inner contradiction between the high claims of the 
'Roman' party and the hard actuality of Gothic supremacy in 
arms. And in his writings Boethius, master of the quadrivium, 
the 'realist' commentator on Aristotle and Porphyry, the lover 
of definitions and distinctions, the subtle theologian, appears not 
as the 'last of the Romans', but as the prototype of the medieval 
schoolmen. His most famous work, the Consolatio Philosophiae, 
was translated into English by King Alfred, and it influenced, as 
much as any other book, the thought of the Middle Ages. It was 
composed in prison. Theoderic saw, in the readiness of the nobles 
to accept the Emperor Justin's anti-Arian decrees, the ruin of 
his life-work. Unbalanced by illness and suspicion, he caused 
Boethius to be put to death with cruel tortures. He was regarded 
as a martyr by the Catholics, though it is truer to call him a martyr 
for the senatorial cause. For a certain antagonism existed 
between the Vatican party, with its plebeian notaries, who were 
now beginning to formulate the well-known curial style and 
methods, and the small circle of noble families attached by birth 
and education to older and more fastidious ideals. 

The foreign policy of Theoderic falls into two periods; the 
division is marked by the rise of Clovis. His first plan was to 
secure the Italian frontiers by a series of alliances with the German 
kingdoms of the West. These Arian, barbaric powers had com- 
mon problems in their orthodox Roman subjects, and their rela- 
tions with their nominal overlord the Emperor. Theoderic's aim 
was to preserve a balance of power among these rulers, and to 
act as mediator between them and Constantinople. In this way 
he could assure himself the hegemony of the German kingdoms, 
and, while making himself useful to the Emperor, form a solid 


resistance to any orthodox or Imperial schemes for reconquista 
which might be brewing at Byzantium. (He had not forgotten 
the fall of his predecessor Odoacer.) Accordingly, he himself 
wedded the sister of Clovis; one of his daughters was given to 
Alaric II, the Visigoth king, another to Sigismund, prince of 
Burgundy. His sister married Thrasamund, king of the Vandals, 
thus removing the menace to southern Italy. The Danube 
region, through which Byzantine troops might pass, was made 
safe by driving the Gepids from Sirmium, the strategic centre. 

The whole intricate structure was shattered at a blow, when 
in 507 Clovis and the Burgundians overthrew the Visigoths on 
the field of Vougle. 1 All the arts of Theoderic, which had been 
used to warn Alaric of his danger, and isolate Burgundy, the 
buffer-state, were now of no avail. A great Catholic power, sup- 
ported apparently by Constantinople, was supreme in Gaul, and 
had driven a wedge between the Arian states. At all costs it must 
be prevented from reaching the Mediterranean. Theoderic 
marches into Gaul and wrests Provence from the Burgundians. 
He becomes regent for his grandson, the Visigoth heir to Spain. 
New alliances are made with the Thuringians, powerful German 
neighbours of the Franks, and with the Heruls on the Danube. 
The Alpine fortresses are strengthened. The policy of harmony 
of interests is replaced by that of opposing powers. But it seems 
no less successful. Clovis dies in 511; and the relations with 
Constantinople, changing constantly with the varying winds of 
Papal claims, doctrinal issues, senatorial intrigues, and Imperial 
ambitions, appear to be set fair when Justin succeeds Anastasius 
(518). Theoderic had married yet another daughter, Amala- 
suntha, to Eutharic, a Goth of royal blood, and the succession 
seemed assured when Justin formally adopted him, and became 
his colleague in the consulship. Cassiodorus ends his chronicle 
with the gay festivities with which the occasion was celebrated 
in Rome. Yet before Theoderic died, storm-clouds had gathered 
on the horizon. Burgundy, under a Catholic ruler, had played 
into the hands of Clovis, and was making overtures to Byzantium. 
The conflict of Frank and Ostrogoth drew nearer as the buffer- 
state weakened. The Heruls were nowfoederati of the Empire, 

1 Cf. p. 64. 


and menaced the north-east frontier. The Vandals, a far more 
dangerous foe, had become hostile. The schism between Rome 
and Constantinople being healed, Pope and nobles were united 
in support of the Emperor. The days of Ostrogothic rule were 
numbered, and Theoderic's ruthless measures to suppress sedi- 
tion had no other effect than to set, beside the German hero of 
the Dietrich-saga, the complementary figure of Roman folk-tale 
and hagiology, Theoderic the monstrous persecutor, haunted by 
his victims at the hour of death, and hurled by their avenging 
hands into the volcanic fires of Hell. 

Soon after A.D. 340 some of the Goths living near the mouth of 
the Danube were converted to Christianity by Ulfilas, whose 
grandparents had been carried off from Cappadocia in a raid, 
and whose remarkable work earned him the title of The Apostle 
of the Goths'. He translated the Bible into their language, but 
left out the Book of Kings; tales of Hebrew warfare were too 
exciting for these passionate people. Fierce opposition was at 
first encountered, perhaps owing to his pacific presentation of 
Christianity, but the Gospel spread rapidly, and passed west- 
wards with the invading tribes into Italy, Gaul, Spain, and 
Africa. Ulfilas had been an Arian, and this heresy accordingly 
became the general form of German Christianity, though it had 
practically vanished from the Empire. The political conse- 
quences of this fact were enormous; it drove a deeper wedge than 
race or culture between Roman and Barbarian. Arianism itself, 
now identified with German civilization, underwent certain 
changes. It had begun as a theological difference, born of 
Trinitarian controversy. On barbarian soil it developed into a 
dislike of dogma, which was, no doubt, fostered by incompre- 
hension of Greek subtlety, itself the fruit of a thousand-year-old 
tradition of dialectic; and this dislike of dogma issued in a return 
to the simpler pre-Nicene beliefs. Not only the Scriptures but 
also, to some extent, the Church services were rendered in the 
Gothic tongue, and it is probable that the organization of the 
Arian churches, cut off as they were from Catholic influence by 
the taint of heresy, as well as by the difference of race, was 
affected by German custom, while the isolation of the individual 


churches may also be ascribed to the pressure of constitutional 
habit. Within the Empire, a parallel is afforded by the Catholic 
hierarchy of patriarchs and bishops, which was largely based on 
the Roman system of provincial administration. Memories of 
the old heathen inter-tribal associations and local priesthoods 
may well have played their part in turning the Arian churches 
in each German kingdom into a kind of national institution, 
bounded by the frontiers of its people, subject to its king, and 
narrowly jealous of its national traditions. 

Catholic subjects of the German kings were treated with toler- 
ance; no organized attempts at conversion were thought neces- 
sary, owing to the complete separation of the German and Roman 
populations. A feeling existed that a man's creed should be that 
of his nation; and the saying of Theoderic is well known: 'We 
cannot enjoin religion; for no one can be forced to believe against 
his will.' Religion, however, could not be separated from 
politics, and on political grounds measures of repression were 
applied in all the kingdoms, when attempts were made by the 
Romans to conspire with their fellow Catholics, in or outside the 
realm, for the purpose of restoring Imperial rule, or of aiding the 
conquests of a Catholic ruler like Clovis. Suspicion of treachery 
and racial antipathy often sharpened these measures into real 
persecution, and, among the Vandals, Africa added the flames of 
religious fanaticism, though the effects of this must not be exagger- 
ated. As long as Gaiseric lived there was no religious persecution, 
though hardship naturally arose from the conditions of Vandal 
conquest. Gaiseric's aim had been to create a central nucleus of 
his people, grouped round Carthage, which should preserve the 
national character. 1 The neighbouring Romans were therefore 
driven out from their properties; which became 'Vandal lots'; 
the Catholic clergy were likewise expelled from the district, in 
order that no Romanizing influence might creep in. Church 
property fell to the Arians. It was only in 483, under Huneric, 
the impossible son of Gaiseric, that systematic persecution of the 
Catholics, starting in the district round Carthage, spread to the 

1 For similar nuclei, cf. the Goths of Odoacer and Theoderic round Ravenna, 
Verona (Dietrich of Bern, in the saga, is Theoderic of Verona) and the north 
Italian towns; the Franks in north-east France and the Sueves in Galicia. 


whole kingdom, and for all its intensity it ended with the king's 
death in the following year. 

Among the Visigoths the political issue is alone considered. 
Euric, when extending his kingdom over Auvergne, found it 
necessary to imprison Sidonius, bishop of Clermont, the leader 
of the Gallo-Roman aristocracy; but it was not a rigorous con- 
finement, and the chief annoyance appears to have been the 
endless gossip of two old crones outside his prison window. Smok- 
ing churches and ruined grass-grown altars might mark the trail 
of the invaders, but after the first onset, whether of Frank or Goth, 
the Roman population in Gaul, as elsewhere, was left undis- 
turbed. The appearance of Clovis, a Catholic German, changed 
the whole order of things. The latent opposition between Arian 
and Catholic in the two great kingdoms of Visigoths and Burgun- 
dians now became evident. In Catholicism were centred all the 
traditions of Rome and her civilization. It was an international 
force, the last link with the Imperial capitals, headed by many 
of the senatorial families of Gaul; in its hands lay the organization 
for relieving famine or poverty. Against this, the Arian national 
churches of a ruling minority of barbarians, with their German 
spirit and decentralized system, could not finally prevail. 

Parallel intrigues were carried on in both kingdoms by the 
Catholic clergy to further the supremacy of the Franks. Caesar- 
ius, bishop of Aries, scholar and statesman, played a great part 
in the events which centred round the famous siege of Aries, with 
its Visigoth garrison, by the combined forces of Burgundians and 
Franks. Suspected of an attempt to betray the city to Burgundy, 
he was exiled for a time. The city was actually taken by the 
Ostrogoths, and Caesarius so far failed in his purpose; but after 
the Visigoth defeat at Vougle, it was only a matter of time before 
the whole of France acknowledged the mastery of Clovis. In 
Burgundy the most important see was likewise occupied by a 
consummate diplomat, Avitus of Vienne. Although carrying on 
close correspondence with Clovis, he contrived to stand well with 
Gundobad the Burgundian king, who treated him and the 
Catholics with great generosity; but regarding the interests of 
his Church as supreme, Avitus did not hesitate to work for the 
Frankish cause. The main facts may be given. Clovis had first 

4145 D 


sought to conquer Burgundy (500) by supporting the rebellion 
of Gundobad's brother; this had failed, owing partly to Visigoth 
support of Gundobad. Avitus, however, possessed overwhelming 
influence at the Burgundian Court, where most of the royal 
family were already Catholics, and Gundobad was induced to 
reverse his policy, and join the Prankish Catholic cause, desert- 
ing the system of alliances between the German Arian kingdoms 
which Theoderic the Ostrogoth had so carefully organized. This 
was the critical point in the downfall of Burgundy. Franks 
and Burgundians together overthrew the Visigoth kingdom at 
Vougle; but by the intervention of Theoderic, who secured the 
Riviera coast, 1 Burgundy, the catspaw, lost almost all her in- 
crease of territory, while the Franks cynically divided the spoils 
with the Ostrogoths. Under the weak and pious Sigismund, 
Burgundy became officially Catholic, and the influence of Avitus 
and his fellow churchmen was supreme. When Sigismund 
murdered his own son, whose mother had been niece of Theoderic, 
an open breach with the Ostrogoths took place. The Franks at 
once seized the opportunity and invaded Burgundy. Sigismund 
was defeated, and his retirement to a monastery did not save him 
or his family from death. They were thrown into a well by the 
invaders. His brother Godomer succeeded for a time in repelling 
the Franks; with great energy and determination he reorganized 
the army and finances, checked the Catholic intrigues, and even 
succeeded in reversing Gundobad's disastrous orientation of 
Burgundian policy by allying himself with the Ostrogoths. But 
Theoderic was dead, and his kingdom in confusion. Visigoth 
power had vanished from France and there was nothing to stay 
the Frankish advance. In 532 the successors of Clovis once more 
attacked, and, fighting to the last, Burgundy went down before 
the onslaught of the victorious Catholics. The efforts of Avitus 
and Caesarius had succeeded, and the concessions made to their 
Catholic subj ects had not appreciably delayed the ruin of the Arian 
kingdoms in Gaul. The Catholic problem continued to occupy 
the Visigoth rulers of Spain until Recared (586-601) united his 
subjects and secured his frontiers by adopting the orthodox faith. 
In Gaul Clovis crowned his great work by the organization of a 

' a. p. 72. 


national church, which combined the political advantages of the 
Arian and Catholic systems. It was controlled by the king; its 
hierarchy gave valuable support to his regime; its frontiers were 
co-extensive with his own; the metropolitan at Aries, though 
acknowledged as the Papal representative, was not allowed more 
than an honorary position. At the same time the advantages of 
communication with Rome and Byzantium were assured; there 
was nothing to fear from Catholic intrigues; and (an important 
consideration) Clovis had not, like other German rulers, the 
Vandals especially, to guard against the submergence of national 
individuality by a Roman population, stronger both in numbers 
and culture. North of the Loire his Franks were very numerous; 
fresh reservoirs of Teutonic resources were at hand across the 
Rhine; and with the subjection of the Alamans the realm of 
Clovis received a German character, balancing the effect of the 
Gallo-Roman population of his latest acquisitions. 

The relations of Theoderic to his Catholic subjects were com- 
plicated by the conditions of the Papacy, and especially by two 
schisms, one external and one internal, which affected his own 
attitude not only to the Romans but also to Constantinople. 
Broadly speaking, three conflicting claims were at work; the 
claim of the Pope not only to the primacy of the Apostolic Sees, 
but to universal authority in matters of dogma; the claim of the 
Byzantine patriarch to equality with Rome, and priority to the 
other patriarchates of the East; the claim of the Emperor to uni- 
versal dominion. The inevitable clash of these claims resulted in 
schism between Rome and Constantinople, which lasted from 
48 1 to 5 1 8. Theoderic naturally favoured the breach, which had 
given him the support of the Papacy. His influence was further 
increased when the papal elections produced rival candidates, 
each appealing to the Arian king for his support. The election 
of Symmachus, who was opposed to reconciliation with Byzan- 
tium, may have been due to the influence of Theoderic, but 
formally the choice was free, and in fact the Church enjoyed far 
more liberty under Theoderic than under a Clovis or Justiniaij. 

So long as the heretical Anastasius reigned, Pope and Senate 
were, on the whole, united in their opposition to Byzantium. 
The accession of Justin in 518 and the return to power of the 


orthodox party produced a movement for reunion at Rome. 
The interests of Pope, Senate, and Ostrogoth were still identical, 
for Theoderic hoped for the recognition, long refused by Anas- 
tasius, of his son Eutharic as the successor to the lordship of Italy. 
His own position would thereby be greatly strengthened. This 
recognition was duly secured, and the schism ended. But all was 
not well. Eutharic died shortly afterwards. Justin renewed the 
measures against the Arian heretics a direct blow at the Gothic 
kingdom. The rapprochement between the nobles of Rome and 
Byzantium became a thought too close for Theoderic's liking. 
His last years were clouded with suspicion and cruelty, though 
apart from the execution of the senators, Symmachus 1 and 
Boethius, no organized persecution either of Romans or Catholics 
was set on foot. 

1 This Symrnachus, the father-in-law of Boethius, must be distinguished from 
the Bishop of Rome, who bore the same name, and also from the fourth-century 
senator, leader of the pagan opposition, patron of Augustine, and friend of 



ryiHE centre of Constantinople was the Augusteum, a spacious 
JL marble-paved square, which in general effect must have re- 
sembled the Piazza San Marco at Venice. On the north side rose 
the dome of St. Sophia; on the east were the porticoes of the 
Senate House, while on the south side a low building with heavy 
iron gates formed the entrance to the Palace. Beyond this stood 
the lofty wall of the Kathisma, a structure whose upper stories, 
looking out on the Hippodrome on the opposite side, formed a 
royal box for the Emperor, and communicated directly with the 
palace buildings by galleries and a spiral staircase. In the square, 
besides the Milestone, a vaulted monument from which started 
all the roads of the Empire, stood a tall bronze column, bear- 
ing a colossal equestrian statue of Justinian, in full armour, 
holding the orb of the universe, his hand stretched towards the 
East, as if commanding the barbarians of Asia not to pass their 
frontiers. The Mese, or Middle Street, lined with arcades, 
statues, and sumptuous palaces, led westwards from this square 
along the peninsula to the Golden Gate, a fortified entrance, 
after the Roman style, in the massive walls which ran across 
the isthmus. 

Seen from the Bosporus the vast palace enclosure, which in- 
cluded the slopes between the Augusteum and the shore, was 
dotted with groups of gilded domes, white pavilions, baths, 
terraces, and chapels, set among trees and fountains, and con- 
nected by flights of marble steps. 

The main entrance to the Palace led from the Augusteum to 
a large domed hall, decorated with mosaics displaying the wars 
and triumphs of Justinian. Behind it was the throne-room, and 
stairs led up from this to the palace of Daphne, with its airy 
terraces and chambers looking out across the blue waters to the 
snowy summits of the Bithynian mountains. 


Several other Imperial residences existed, not only in this 
quarter, but outside the. city, and on the Asiatic shore. 

The group formed by palace, square, cathedral, and Hippo- 
drome was the setting for many pageants and crises in the life of 
the capital. On New Year's Day, if the Emperor had deigned to 
accept the consulship, they saw the house-fronts gay with carpets, 
silken streamers waving from poles, the square filled with wooden 
hustings, crowded by the ranks of the city corporations and circus 
factions. Within the palace the Emperor received the homage 
of the Senate and the panegyrics of the orators, bestowing in 
return baskets full of gold pieces, silver cups, or ivory diptychs 
carved with his portrait. Then the gates opened, and marshalled 
by heralds the long procession of functionaries, courtiers, and 
guards filed across the square into the cathedral, where, in a blaze 
of candles, the Emperor offered his gifts at the high altar and re- 
ceived benediction, before proceeding in triumph to the Capitol. 
This was but one of many such ceremonies. Often they were 
confined to the Court, as when the Emperor held his solemn 
audiences (silentia) to confer dignities or promotion, or received 
Caucasian and Herul princes, or envoys from Persia and Abys- 
sinia. Then the full splendour of Byzantine ceremonial was dis- 
played. The little group of foreigners, guided .by permanent 
officials appointed for this purpose, moved slowly between the 
lines of tall soldiers, through serried rows of golden shields and 
helmets, scarlet plumes and flashing spears, till they halted before 
the ivory doors of the entrance-chamber. A long wait ensued. 
Suddenly the curtains were flung back, and a brilliant tableau 
was revealed the Emperor enthroned between the two Victories 
surrounded by white-clad guards with gold collars, the senators 
and high officials in their silk robes ranged about him. After a 
threefold prostration, the leader of the embassy was permitted 
to present his gifts to the Emperor before being dismissed with a 
few gracious words. Until the end of their stay the envoys would 
be sumptuously entertained, and shown carefully the more im- 
pressive sights of the city. 

If St. Sophia, it has been said, belonged to God, and the Palace 
to the Emperor, the Hippodrome was the property of the people. 


It formed the axis of Byzantine life, even as its orientation had 
determined that of both church and palace. Here the last 
liberties of the Roman people were expressed in the shouts of the 
circus factions, demanding from their ruler the redress of griev- 
ances or the downfall of an unpopular minister. Here the con- 
quered Vandals of Africa, or in later times the Mahometan Arabs, 
were led round in triumph, and forced to prostrate themselves 
before the Emperor, while the Hippodrome rang with hosannas 
and songs of victory. Here, too, on occasion, took place the 
execution or mutilation of enemies of the state. 

The central area of the Hippodrome, divided down the middle 
by a row of obelisks and columns, was surrounded by rising tiers 
of white marble seats, holding more than 60,000 spectators. At 
the far end the huge curving structure was raised upon massive 
arcades above the lower slopes . In the centre of the long south side 
stood the Kathisma, the lofty building on which the Emperor 
ventured forth from his palace, as on a projecting pier, into the 
angry sea of the populace. The Imperial box, with its adjoining 
rooms, was raised high above the reach of stones or storming 
mobs. 1 Below it, on a balcony, were guards and musicians. The 
rectilinear end, which was both goal and starting-point for the 
charioteers, was formed by tiers of stone boxes, occupied by the 
aristocracy of Byzantium. Below were the chambers, fitted with 
barriers, from which the chariots burst forth down the course, 
wheeling sharply round the meta the monument which marked 
its farther end to dash back along the other side of the central 
axis, or spina, under the shouting ranks of frantic onlookers. 

The open spaces and arcades round the Hippodrome were 
filled with obelisks and famous statues, transferred from Rome, 
or torn from the cities of Greece, Egypt, and Asia Minor, whose 
glory they had been. Some of these were the vulgar colossi be- 
loved of the late Empire; some were the dignified equestrian 
figures of Roman Emperors. Others were of the purest Hellenic 
style, a few the actual handiwork of such sculptors as Phidias and 
Lysippus. The superstitious populace of the Middle Ages gave 
them magic powers, and read the secrets of the future in the 

1 It could, however, be entered by stairs from the Hippodrome, as the Nika 
Riot shows. 


hieroglyphics of the Egyptian stelae. The Prankish crusaders 
melted down the bronze for coin; but one of them was moved 
with compassion for the melancholy, dreaming Hercules and the 
loveliness of Helen's beauty. 'Her mouth, half-open like a flower, 
seemed to speak, her enchanting smile ravished the soul of him 
who beheld it. But who could portray her deep eyes, the curve 
of her brow, the grace of her delicious body?' 1 

From the upper porticoes of the Hippodrome the eye ranged 
over the clear waters of the Sea of Marmora on the south, covered 
with the sails of the shipping of three continents, and beyond 
them the groves and country houses and the far mountains of 
Asia Minor; eastward lay the cupolas and terraced gardens of the 
Palace, the narrow strait and the houses and churches on its 
farther side, and in the foreground the Augusteum, backed by 
the great dome of St. Sophia. To the north the roads and squares, 
the aqueducts and triumphal arches of the city, the shining roofs 
of countless churches, and high bronze pillars with spiral friezes, 
rising above the serried housetops, led the eye onwards to the 
line of square towers and massive walls, and the open country 
that lay beyond. 

All these attractions, however, counted for nothing beside the 
frenzy of the contest between Greens and Blues. The circus 
parties were an inheritance from the Early Empire; they were 
now, in every great city of the East, the most important fact in the 
lives of its excitable populace. Every citizen was a member of one 
of the factions, which sat on opposite sides of the Hippodrome, 
wearing their blue or green colours, praying passionately to the 
saints for the victory of their party, or shrieking insults at the 
opposing ranks. All the civic patriotism, all the local loyalties of 
race and class, all the venom which had in earlier days fomented 
the Greek staseis, those internecine party-struggles of the City 
State, now flowed into this curious channel. Even the arts were 
affected; statues and epigrams celebrated the beauty and prowess 
of those darlings of the public, the charioteers. The cosmopolitan 
mobs of Antioch or Constantinople cared less for the victory of 
Roman arms on distant frontiers than for the triumph of Green 
or Blue. It is difficult to trace any real political or religious 

1 NicetasofChones, 864. 


antagonism behind the strife of parties. Accusations of heresy 
and treachery, of witchcraft or immorality, were scattered indis- 
criminately by both sides; they were merely the current coin of 
Byzantine abuse. But the dangerous freemasonry which linked 
up the Blue or Green parties of the great cities of the Empire, and 
the passions aroused by the chariot-races, which might culminate 
in a sudden riot, if not a revolution, made the circus factions a 
powerful force in politics. In the interests of the State careful 
organization was necessary. At the head of each party were 
numerous officials, elected by a sort of Jockey Club, composed of 
some hundreds of wealthy men, whose subscriptions supported 
the training establishments, and in addition to the racing pro- 
vided the bear-baiting and acrobats for the intervals. These 
officials had special privileges and duties in the Court ceremonies, 
especially those connected with Imperial births and marriages, 
and were responsible also for keeping order in the Hippodrome. 
Their followers formed a guard of honour in State processions, 
and the bands of the citizen militia, which policed the capital 
and defended the various portions of the walls allotted to 
them, were closely connected with the party organizations. The 
strangest feature of all, though not without Roman precedent, is 
that the Emperor himself belonged to a faction; and the result was 
that while one party was favoured, and allowed to murder or 
terrorize its opponents, or to form bands of Mohocks, fantasti- 
cally dressed, whose outrages made the streets of the capital un- 
safe, in the other were concentrated, at a crisis, all the elements of 
opposition to the reigning house, personal or religious, racial or 
dynastic, kindled, perhaps, by the final sparks of Greek demo- 
cracy, flickering out in a world which knew only absolutism. 

Anastasius had favoured the Greens, but Justin and Justinian 
reversed this policy. While his position was still uncertain, 
Justinian's partiality for the Blues had gone to all lengths, and 
even the courts of justice had been corrupted by party feeling. By 
the beginning of 532 he felt more secure, and orders were issued 
to the great cities that disorders of either faction should be put 
down. The City Prefect of Byzantium had consequently decreed 
the execution of seven Greens and Blues, convicted of murder in 
a recent disturbance. Unfortunately the rope broke twice; two 


of the condemned men were rescued by an indignant crowd, and 
both parties petitioned the Emperor for a reprieve. When this 
was refused, the parties united, and with the watchword nika 
(conquer!) the Green-Blues began the famous rising which is 
known as the Nika Riot. 

In a few days the movement developed a more serious char- 
acter. The buildings round the Augusteum were set on fire. The 
country folk, enraged by ruinous taxation, joined in the fray, and 
the faction riot became a popular rising. Demand was made for 
the deposition of the three most unpopular ministers. Alarmed 
at the disorder, Justinian complied, and even appeared in person 
in the Kathisma, swearing on the Gospels to grant redress and 
amnesty; but it was too late. He retired into the Palace, followed 
by gibes and insults. The popular rising had now become a 
revolution. Various nobles, who had always hated the upstart 
house of Justin, were backing the rioters, and a nephew of Anasta- 
sius was crowned Emperor, against his will, and conducted to the 
Kathisma by the excited mob which swarmed into the Hippo- 
drome. The position of the real Emperor, besieged in his Palace, 
seemed desperate. The loyalty of the senators, apart from his 
own creatures, was doubtful; the guards were wavering, and he 
could count only on the personal retainers and barbarian troops 
of two of his generals. A hurried council took place, and Justinian 
prepared for flight. The situation was saved by Theodora, whose 
famous speech, even in the Thucydidean garb which Procopius 
has given to it, has an authentic ring. 'Though safety should lie 
only in flight, yet will I not flee. Those who have worn a crown 
should never survive its loss. Never will I live to see the day 
when men no longer hail me as Empress. Escape then, if you 
will, Caesar; you have money; the ships await you; the sea is 
unguarded. As for me, I stay. I hold with the old proverb which 
declares that the purple is a fair winding-sheet.' 

Vigorous action followed. The Blues were to be bribed to 
desert the Greens; meanwhile the two loyal generals had forced 
their way into the Hippodrome by different gates, and an appal- 
ling massacre ensued. More -than 30,000 dead were left lying 
there when night ended the slaughter. 

The unhappy nephews of Anastasius were promptly put to 


death Justinian was too frightened to spare them and several 
of the nobles were banished. The measures taken, though not 
vindictive, were sufficient to ensure that there should be no repeti- 
tion, either from senators or circus factions, of the activities which 
had so nearly deprived the ruler of his throne. While his position 
was thus actually strengthened, on the ashes of the ruined quarter 
extending from the Forum of Constantine to the Palace Gates 
there rose a magnificent series of buildings, crowned by the great 
church which, together with the legislative code which bears his 
name, constitutes the most lasting monument of Justinian. 

Saint Sophia, the Church of the Holy Wisdom, has been 
acknowledged ever since that day to be, in the words of Sir John 
Mandeville, 'the fairest church in all the world'. Procopius rises 
to its description in a noble passage, and Paul the Silentiary, a 
distinguished courtier and poet, in the hexameters composed for 
the reopening of the edifice by Justinian, has fused poetic imagery 
and exact architectural detail into a glowing picture. Ethereal 
lightness was the main impression given by the building. The 
dome appeared to be 'hung from the sky', and all the parts were 
'surprisingly joined to one another in the air, suspended one from 
another, and resting only on that which is next to them'. This 
effect was produced by the daring semi-domes which supported the 
great central cupola on east and west, and by the admirable pro- 
portions of the whole, and was increased by the light and sunshine 
poured into the church through forty windows in the dome, and 
by the soft radiance of the many-coloured marbles which clothed 
the walls and floor. Cloistered courts and fountains formed the 
approach. When the double narthex, with its nine doors, was 
passed, the whole length of the building became visible. The 
square central space, with its dome resting on four massive piers 
rising 'like sheer cliffs', was flanked by the two-storeyed arcades 
behind which were the seats of the members of the Court, the 
upper storey, with delicate latticed grills, being reserved for 
women. Beyond this space stood the ambo, rising like an island 
of ivory and silver from swirling seas of marble, streaked with 
deep green or glowing red, powdered with gold stars, or splashed 
with milky streams on glittering black, or 'like blue cornflowers 


in grass, with here and there a drift of fallen snow 3 . The eastern 
end was formed of three apses; the central one contained the 
sanctuary, shut off by a great silver iconostasis, on which stood 
figures of martyrs and pairs of winged angels with bowed heads. 
The altar was of pure gold, hung with silken figured curtains, and 
both the pyramidal ciborium which surmounted it and the 
curving tribunes beyond it for the patriarch and his clergy shone 
with silver, elaborately worked. At night, hundreds of perfumed 
lamps, in clusters, or shaped to resemble silver ships or crowns, 
lit up every part, and shone even through the openings in the 
dome, forming a beacon for the sailor entering the adverse 
currents of the Hellespont, and anxiously 'awaiting with taut 
fores tay the onslaught of a storm from Africa 9 . 

In St. Sophia purely Christian architecture reaches its highest 
point; the abstract theology of the East has found its incarnation 
in stone. 'Whoever enters there to worship perceives at once 
that it is not by any human strength or skill, but by the favour of 
God, that this whole work has been perfected. The mind rises 
sublime to commune with God, feeling that he cannot be far off, 
but must especially love to dwell in the place which he has 

As its dome, 'like a watch-tower', rose high above the city, so 
'The Great Church' overshadowed in importance the countless 
other edifices which came into being at this time. Among these, 
the Church of the Holy Apostles, with its tombs of the Emperors, 
was hardly inferior to St. Sophia in lavish decoration, and is also 
of interest as having been the model from which St. Mark's at 
Venice was taken. All through the Empire, buildings of every 
description, many of striking and original design, were being 
erected aqueducts and cisterns in Mesopotamia, stone bridges 
where the roads of Asia Minor crossed above the mountain 
torrents, baths and fountains in Syria, huge fortresses on the 
African frontier, walled monasteries on Mt. Sinai, and churcues 
all round the Mediterranean, and along the Adriatic shores to 
Parenzo and Ravenna. Byzantine influence was, in the following 
century, to become predominant even at Rome, and while its 
architecture can be seen from the domes of Perigueux to the 





cupolas of Kiev, from the Aix of Charlemagne to the oases of 
Upper Egypt, its types of ornamental motives and its typical 
presentation of sacred events and personages spread even farther, 
carried by ivories, textiles, and miniatures, to Ireland, North- 
umbria, and Germany. 

The origins of Christian Art have been hotly debated, not 
without religious and patriotic bias. The question has recently 
taken a new form. The old antithesis of 'Orient oder Rom' has 
been given up, and methods of approach have altered, owing to 
the enormous increase of material brought forward for com- 
parison. Broadly speaking, the changes of these centuries are 
seen no longer as a catastrophic flood, washing away all land- 
marks, but rather as the manifold interlacing tributaries and 
currents in a continuous stream, whose importance is to be 
gauged by the momentum with which they surge through old 
channels. The forms, no less than the spirit, of Christian Art had 
their sources in the East; but it was not the first appearance of 
Oriental influence. Nile and Orontes had for centuries past 
poured their waters into the Tiber. Alexandria, the centre of 
Hellenistic traditions of modelling, ornament, and ideal presen- 
tation of the human form, was the place of origin, for instance, 
of the Roman house-decoration which is reflected in the Cata- 
combs. Antioch, representative of the realistic Semitic style, 
behind which lay the great traditions of the figure-sculptors, of 
Babylon and Assyria, became prominent when Christianity was 
made the State religion, and Christian Art changed its character 
to suit the new conditions. The simple gaiety and pathos of the 
Catacomb frescoes, the playing Cupids, the anchor, fish, and dove, 
the suppliant figures and Orphic symbols of rebirth, were re- 
placed by the awe and grandeur of historical and dogmatic 
scenes. Christ was no longer a graceful Greek youth, or a shep- 
herd carrying a lamb, but a divine king ruling his Oriental Court 
among the clouds, or a dolorous, bearded Semitic figure, sharing 
the sufferings of the countless martyrs whose legends were de- 
picted in full detail along the walls of the basilicas. Constantine's 
famous buildings, especially those at Jerusalem, influenced both 
structure and decoration of the churches which were rising in 
every province, and miniatures, ivories, and pilgrim 'souvenirs' 


disseminated through the West those types and figures, picturing, 
for instance, the various Apostles, the Days of Creation, or the 
parallels between Old and New Testaments, which formed the 
subject-matter of medieval art. 

Behind these twin influences of Antioch and Alexandria lies 
a third, older and more mysterious, the importance of which it 
has been the great achievement of Strzgowski to display, the far- 
spread tradition of the Asiatic nomad cultures, with its surface 
patterns, its formal designs of vine-tendrils, flowers, and animals, 
its abstract, non-representational character. Just as the nomad- 
folk, suddenly appearing from the unchanging steppes of Asia 
at all periods of history, have left their mark upon the countries 
which they overran, so their artistic influence has made itself 
felt at the Aands of Scythians, Turks, and Arabs; and at this time 
especially, through the medium of northern Persia, 1 it was exer- 
cised largely upon Armenia, one of the oldest seats of Christianity, 
with flourishing bishoprics, churches, and monasteries. Both 
Syrian and Coptic art were profoundly affected by these Asiatic 
forms, and through them the West; but they penetrated more 
directly by other routes. The Goths sojourned for a time in the 
steppes of South Russia, long enough to acquire a taste for the 
sombre, formal jewellery and the interlacing ornament of Iranian 
type which in their subsequent wanderings they spread over 
North Italy, West Germany, France, and Spain, where the style 
developed among Visigoth, Merovingian, and Lombard, and can 
be traced, for example, in the grotesque animals of certain 
Romanesque sculpture. It may be that its abstract form appealed 
to the kindred tastes of the northerners, just as in Ireland, which 
lacked a figure art, the introduction of Christianity was soon 
followed by the appearance of Eastern ornamental motives, 
which combined readily with the whorls and trumpets of Celtic 
patterns into the complicated designs of the Book of Kells. 

The Iranian artist, if he used forms of men, animals, or plants, 
employed them only as constituent parts of a decorative design, 
as in a Persian carpet. His designs were flat; there was little or no 
sense of modelling or perspective, either in painting or sculpture. 

1 The Sasanian figure-art of the southern district was derived from Mesopotamia!* 
and Hellenistic sources. 


Degrees of distance were represented by placing the figures -in 
zones one above the other, and bright colours were laid side by 
side without gradation of tone. His ideal was a continuous 
pattern, marked out by opposing tints or alternating light and 
shade, rather than a symmetrical scheme leading the eye up to 
some central point. The art of the Scythians, and that of the 
later Turco-Mongolian peoples, have the same peculiarities. 
When we look at the change which came over Christian art, and 
contrast the cool Roman basilicas, their bare surfaces and ordered 
structure, their strongly moulded relief and deeply cut capitals, 
with the rich and glowing churches of this time, with the brilliant 
colouring of mosaic and fresco, the flat, sharp-edged figures of 
processing martyrs, the covering of every surface with arabesque 
designs, punctured ornament or marble lattice- work, the impost- 
capitals like blocks of frozen lace, it is not difficult, even without 
recourse to the evidence of architectural forms, of ivories and 
miniatures, to realize the significance of this third aspect of 
Byzantine Art. 

The name 'Byzantine' art is justified, for the great city was at 
this time the meeting-place and crucible of all these influences. 
She was also the centre of commerce. 'Into her harbours sailed 
expectantly the vessels of the world's trade, and the winds them- 
selves conspired to bring merchandise to enrich her citizens'. 1 
From South Russia and the Danube came furs and hides; but it 
was from the East that she drew her chief riches. The Court and 
upper classes consumed vast quantities of silks, spices, and per- 
fumed woods ; and Byzantium became for the West a city of magic 
and strange luxury when the Emperor sent gifts of silk-stuffs and 
precious stones to the Courts and churches of the barbarians. 

There were two main routes between the Far East and the 
Mediterranean. By the older and shorter route caravans crossed 
the great deserts of Central Asia, and by Samarkand, Bokhara, 
and the oases of Sogdiana reached the Persian frontier in 150 
days. Another 80 days 9 journey through Persia brought them 
to Nisibis, the Roman frontier town. The other route, used ex- 
tensively since A.D. 150, was by sea. Ceylon was the great 

1 Paul the Silentiary, ii. 232-5. 


central market, to which silk and cotton, aloes, pepper, cloves, 
and sandalwood were shipped from China, Malay, and the East 
Indies. From this point two lines of shipping radiated to the 
West. One, the most important, led up the Persian Gulf to the 
mouths of Tigris and Euphrates and the great markets of Hira. 
The other rounded Arabia and passed up the Red Sea to the 
ports of the Yemen on the eastern shore, and those of Abyssinia 
on the west, or to the Roman cities at the head of the gulf, Clisma, 
near Suez, and Aila on the eastern branch. A few merchants 
from Syria or Alexandria actually visited the East, and saw the 
amethyst, as big as a pine-cone, glittering on its temple-summit 
in Ceylon, or the Indian monarchs with their immense armies 
and herds of elephants. Stories were current about the Isle of 
Satyrs, which is Borneo, home of the orang-utan, and Chinese 
sources tell of Western traders in their ports. Some had sailed 
down the African coast, and seen the stockades and c dumb 
barter' of the caravan-trade with the interior. But they did not 
venture too far; for, Cosmas tells us, outside the four great gulfs 
of the world, the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and 
Caspian Sea, ran the circumambient Ocean, with its deadly 
mists and fierce currents, and there was constant danger of being 
sucked into it. One day, not far from Zanzibar, a number of 
albatrosses appeared. The sky grew threatening, and passengers 
and crew shouted in terror to the steersman to port the helm, and 
turn back into the Gulf, for the surf of the Ocean was already 
visible. The albatrosses followed them, flying high, a sign that 
the Ocean was near. 

Cosmas the monk, a retired Alexandrian merchant, has enter- 
taining and reliable tales of his travels, of seals and giraffes, 
musk-deer, coco-nuts, pepper-trees, and other rarities. His cos- 
mology is equally entertaining but less reliable. In Gibbon's 
phrase, 'the nonsense of the monk is mingled with the practical 
experience of the traveller 9 . By methods still familiar, he inter- 
prets the Scriptures so as to confound the pernicious Pagan 
doctrines that the world is round, and that Antipodes exist. For 
him the universe was an oblong box of two storeys, made in the 
proportions of the Ark of the Covenant, as set forth by Moses, 
The Great Cosmographer'. Stars are carried by angels; the sun 


sets behind a great mountain. He is a good example of popular 
monastic speculation; but his particular theory was not widely 

Most of the overseas trade was in the hands of Persians; they 
commanded the markets of Ceylon, and enjoyed special privi- 
leges. The Red Sea traffic was handled by the sailors of Abys- 
sinia, who also visited the Eastern ports. The whole of the silk 
trade passed through Persian hands, and the inconvenience of 
this was obvious. Justinian's trade policy was governed by this 
fact. Attempts were made to establish the northern caravan 
route, which passed through Turkestan, north of Persian terri- 
tory, round the Caspian, and down to the eastern end of the Black 
Sea. Another scheme was the employment of State bargaining 
with Persia. By a commercial treaty permission to import silk 
was limited to three frontier towns, Callinicum in Osroene, 
Nisibis in Mesopotamia, and Artaxata in Armenia. Smuggling 
was severely punished, and the cost of raw silk, which was pur- 
chased by Imperial officials, was fixed by law, while at the other 
end a maximum price was laid down for the finished products 
from Tyre and Beirut. The measures taken were not entirely 
successful, for sometimes Persia refused to sell at the price offered, 
and the Syrian silk-merchants were faced with ruin. The Byzan- 
tine government had eventually to pay the higher price, but it 
took advantage of the opportunity to make the industry a State 

Justinian's main efforts were directed towards the Red Sea 
trade. The Ethiopians of Aksum (Abyssinia) had become Catho- 
lics, and therefore allies; Justinian had helped them to regain 
their power over the opposite coast, the Yemen. Their trade was 
extensive incense, spices, emeralds, ivory from the interior, and 
gold and slaves from farther south; they handled also the Arabian 
and much of the Asiatic commerce. Justinian's favours were 
bestowed with a purpose; Abyssinia was to compete with Persia 
for the silk trade of the West. The Persian hold, however, on the 
markets of India and Ceylon was too firm, and nothing much 
came of this. A romantic episode provided the solution. Two 
monks succeeded in smuggling silkworms' eggs out of China, 
where the secret was jealously guarded, by concealing them in 


the hollow of a bamboo. Syria was soon covered with mulberry- 
trees, and after a time the Empire ceased to depend wholly on 
Chinese imports. 

In spite of the rigorous control exercised by the State, and the 
numerous duties exacted, Byzantine trade flourished exceed- 
ingly. Syria and Egypt were hives of industry, and the Mediter- 
ranean was thronged from end to end with the ships of traders, 
bringing all the exotic fruits, jewels, stuffs and spices, the curious 
enamels, embroidery, and metalwork of the Near and Far East 
into the seaports of Western Europe; while the gold Imperial 
nomisma was current coin in all the markets of the world. 

In the foregoing pages some attempt has been made to sketch 
a background for the Imperial policy of Justinian by using as 
symbols the great buildings which surrounded the Augusteum, 
To complete the picture, it would have been necessary to describe 
the social life of the various classes of Byzantine society. The 
silk-clad nobility, with their town houses and country seats, their 
posts in the administration, the army and the church, their in- 
trigues for power and struggles for precedence, their hunting and 
horse-racing, their literary pursuits and eclectic culture. The 
middle class, the University circle, with its State-paid professors, 
its efficient schools of law and rhetoric, closely connected with the 
machinery of the civil service, whose corruption and nepotism 
John Lydus paints in such lively colours. Then the sober luxury 
and more homely manners of the rich merchants, bankers, and 
shopkeepers; and the whole public life of the city, its parishes, 
police and firemen, its law courts and schools, its hospitals with 
their house-physicians and separate wards, its orphanages and 
almshouses, its public bakeries, water-supply, cisterns, aque- 
ducts, and drainage. The splendid squares and broad streets, 
colonnades and triumphal arches of brilliant white marble, 
thronged with statues, the shops displaying their flaming silks 
and gleaming metalwork for sale, and the roadways kaleidoscopic 
with the many-coloured throng, nobles in rich cloaks, long- 
sleeved tunics, and brocaded sleeves, followed by slaves with 
short jerkins and cowls, or mounted on white horses with gold- 
embroidered saddle-cloth; women with brightlypatterned gowns 


and shawls, or devotes in grey and black; monks and pilgrims; 
courtesans, beggars, and pickpockets; guards and mercenaries; 
Slavs, Germans, Huns; merchants of Syria and Egypt; jugglers, 
astrologers and quack doctors at street corners, story-tellers in the 
bazaars, recounting the old folk-tales of Asia or the latest marvel 
or witticism, often coupled with the names of the great, even of 
the Emperor and his consort. Or the steep, narrow lanes, with 
overhanging balconies and dark shops and brothels, leading 
down to the crowded harbour the haunts of the foreign sailors, 
and the home of the plague, which from time to time sweeps over 
the city, killing five thousand a day. Ghosts walk the empty 
streets then, and glide even through barred doors, terrible voices 
warning the victim of his approaching end. 

And running like a cross-section through the whole of Byzan- 
tine life, the Church with its many activities, from the Patriarch 
and his clergy, the preachers in the great churches, the fashion- 
able confessors, the scholarly clerics, down to the peasant monks 
and wandering ascetics. The city and its environs swarmed with 
monasteries and convents, some founded, and often inhabited, 
by senatorial nobles and their women-folk, others the refuge not 
only of the needy but of fugitives from justice. They are an 
integral part of the State, as Justinian's detailed legislation shows. 
Here, as elsewhere, he follows the traditional theory of Rome. 
Just as the due performance of the sacra secured good harvests 
and kept the enemy from the gates of the Republic, so now, it is 
announced, 'if these pure hands and sanctified souls pray for the 
Empire, the army will be strengthened, the prosperity of the 
State increased, agriculture and commerce will flourish, under 
the assured benevolence of God 9 (Nov. 133. 5). It is impossible 
to over-estimate the importance of religion in Byzantine life. 
Our topic of conversation is the weather; theirs was theology. 
Our internal crises are social and economic; theirs were doctrinal. 
Their wars were crusades, their Emperor was God's vice-gerent. 
In settled periods the monasteries with their armies of monks and 
troops of dependants played a great part in- the formation of 
popular opinion; stylite hermits swayed the populace, and 
Emperors bowed before their demands and solicited their 
counsel. In times of stress the churches were thronged with 


suppliants, and the Virgin herself was to be seen defending the 

battlements of her holy city. 

Byzantium had need of all her spiritual armoury. She was 
essentially a beleaguered city, and the suppressed excitement of a 
state of siege pervades the outlook of her inhabitants. Omens and 
prodigies are everywhere; pagan statues speak or sweat, ancient 
inscriptions foretell imminent calamities; icons and relics heal the 
sick, avert misfortune, or remove one's private enemy by sudden 
death. Wild rumours fly; the Emperor is a magician, he walks 
headless by night, his queen is possessed by a demon. Earthquake 
or plague drives the population frantic; they seize their belong- 
ings, bury their valuables, rush through the streets. And the 
enemy is always at hand; less than thirty miles away was the 
great land-wall, beyond which, during long periods, it was not 
wise to venture. Many a hunting-party failed to return at even- 
ing; and villages, monasteries, and country houses round the 
capital flamed in the path of successive invasions. Constantinople 
is a bastion thrust out into Asia, exposed to the surging of the 
barbaric hordes issuing from the great steppes or -the Arabian 
deserts. Like some pinnacled city in a medieval miniature, 
Tsarigrad of the Slavs, Micklegarth of the Northmen, it lies 
bathed in the sunshine of Western dreams. But from the Eastern 
aspect it glows with a more baleful light. Under a stormy sky 
the domes glitter, the walls are tipped with spears; before the 
ramparts stand the long rows of Avar tents, and bands of Arab 
horsemen scour the desolate plains. The relentless ring of bar- 
barians edges closer, burning to ravish 'the city of the world's 
desire 9 . 1 

1 Constantino the Rhodian. Cf. Rev. desl. Grecques, be (1896), p. 38. 


JUSTIN died in 527 and was succeeded by his nephew Justinian, 
who had been for several years the virtual ruler of the Empire. 
He was a man of moderate height, spare, middle-aged, rather 
bald, with curly greyish hair, ruddy and round-faced, affable, 
accessible, and complacent. Immensely industrious, with an 
aptitude for detail, he dictated the tactics of a distant campaign, 
the architecture of an African fortress, the exact programme for 
the consular games, or arguments for compulsory fasting in Lent. 
He was dignified and self-controlled in general demeanour, but 
action sometimes found him wanting. In the Nika Riot he dis- 
played a fundamental weakness, and the influence exercised over 
him by Theodora and John the Cappadocian hints at an inde- 
cisive character in Diehl's words, une dme de valeur plutot mediocre. 
Yet the achievements of this man have earned him the title 
of Justinian the Great. He stands in history as the builder of 
St. Sophia, the founder of European Law, the restorer of Roman 
dominion from the Pillars of Hercules to the Euphrates. Imperium 
Romanum it is the secret of his success. The Macedonian peasant, 
when he assumed the purple, put on also the greatness of those 
heroic rulers whose superhuman efforts had for five centuries 
kept the Empire in being. 1 In the holder of the Imperium were 
centred all the powers of Church and State, of the law, the army, 
the administration. He was responsible for the welfare of his 
subjects, whether in the Eastern parts or in those Western pro- 
vinces which had been for a time committed to the charge of his 
viceroys, the Germanic kings. He was the protector of all Catho- 
lics, within or without the Empire, and the merciless enemy of all 
heretics and pagans. This is the theory which underlies all the 
actions of Justinian. The codification of Roman Law perpetu- 
ates the expression of a civilization handed down from Repub- 
lican times, and emphasizes the constitutional position of the 

1 Gf. F. W. Busscll, Constitutional History of the Roman Empire, vol. i, p, 217. 'The 
sovereign himself in succeeding lost much of his own capricious individuality, and 
became an inheritor and a simple exponent of the undying policy of Rome.' 


Emperor asfons iuris. Elaborate ceremonial at Court exalts the 
Imperial office, and throughout the Empire the inscriptions on 
his buildings and the nomenclature of his cities record for pos- 
terity the name and glory of Justinian. The administration is 
to be purified, not only because the Emperor owes a duty to his 
subjects, but also because they must be placed in a position to 
pay the heavy imposts necessary to finance his imperialist 
schemes. Above all, the reconquest of the Roman provinces of 
the Empire Africa, Italy, Spain, if not Gaul and Britain is the 
great dream of Justinian. Danube and Eastern frontiers are 
neglected, drained of troops for Western campaigns. Mono- 
physite Egypt and Syria are persecuted and alienated, while 
support is given to the Papacy and to the Catholics of Africa and 
Italy. The provinces, both in East and West, are crushed by 
intolerable taxation to provide money for armies and fortresses, 
and corruption and extortion creep back under the shadow of 
Imperial bankruptcy. It is easy to point to the end of the long 
reign, the depleted coffers, the starving peasantry, the dwindling 
armies, the West falling away, the East threatening, the Empire 
defenceless and its senile Emperor concerned only with theo- 
logical disputation, and to say that Justinian's policy was disas- 
trous, that the resources of the State were not more than sufficient 
to protect its Danubian and Persian frontiers. All this is true; but 
it must be remembered that Justinian had the defects of his 
qualities. The Great Age of Byzantium, which fixed her impress 
indelibly upon the laws and arts of Europe, was due to his Roman 
conception of Empire, which demanded the recovery of the West 
and the headship of the Catholic Church, no less than the creation 
of the Code and of St. Sophia. 

The Empress Theodora presents the strangest contrast to her 
husband. Luxurious, haughty, dominating, revengeful, clear- 
sighted and unscrupulous, she exercised continual influence 
either by persuasion or intrigue over the mind and decisions of 
the Emperor. In modern jargon, a realist, a 'believer in direct 
action', a salutary counterforce to the cloudy imperialism and the 
elaborate paper schemes of Justinian. It is impossible to deter- 
mine how much truth lies behind the scandal retailed with much 


gusto by Procopius in the Anecdota. Her illegitimate son, her 
interest in measures dealing with the traffic in women, and her 
Monophysite leanings certainly agree with the main facts of the 
story that she had been a courtesan in Byzantium, and after- 
wards in Alexandria and Antioch, where she had come under the 
influence of leaders of the Monophysite party. It is, perhaps, not 
fantastic to see, in her exaction from the courtiers of ceremonial 
prostration, and her studied insolence towards them, a revenge 
for her own more unceremonious treatment at the hands of 
their class. 

Until her death in 548 she was practically (though not, of 
course, constitutionally) co-ruler of the Empire. Her favourites 
became prefects, generals, patriarchs, and popes. Her enemies 
were disgraced or destroyed; even the all-powerful John of 
Cappadocia paid the penalty at last. Possessed of vast estates 
and revenues, she controlled her own secret service, and some- 
times even thwarted the Imperial agents, never failing, however, 
to conciliate Justinian after the event. Most striking of all was 
her influence upon Eastern policy. She was naturally attracted 
to the Monophysite Church, and even when it was proscribed at 
Byzantium she harboured its priests and monks; but she saw also, 
more clearly than Justinian, the political danger to the monarchy 
if the essential provinces of Asia, Syria, and Egypt were driven 
to revolt by persecution of their faith. Her counsel produced the 
opportune concessions and toleration which were necessary to 
prevent the occurrence of this disaster. 

The Conquest of the West began in 533 when Belisarius, the 
Empire's best general, set sail for Africa with 10,000 infantry and 
some 5,000 horsemen. With him went his assessor, the historian 
Procopius, who has left us a detailed account of the campaign. 
The pretext for war was the fact that Hilderic, the weak Vandal 
king, whose sympathies lay with Catholicism and Byzantium, 
had been driven out by Gelimer, who represented the anti- 
Byzantine party. A similar pretext offered itself when the time 
came for the invasion of Italy; and the similarity extends also to 
the course taken by the fighting. In both cases sudden initial 
success proved unstable, and years of confused struggle followed 


ROMAN EMPIRE, A.D. 533-600 



before the conquest was complete. In Africa everything favoured 
Justinian's bold plan. The Vandal fleet and a large part of the 
forces had just been dispatched to Sardinia to quell a revolt. 
The Byzantine troops landed without difficulty on the African 
coast, and marched towards Carthage along shady roads, camp- 
ing by night among delightful orchards. They were received 
with open arms by the Roman population. The Vandal forces 
consisted of light cavalry, and the proper tactics would have been 
guerrilla warfare against the armoured horsemen and slow- 
moving infantry of their adversaries. But Gelimer chose to engage 
in two pitched battles. In spite of serious mistakes Belisarius was 
victorious in both, and in a short time Carthage was in his hands, 
and the Vandal king, whom Procopius makes into a curiously 
temperamental and romantic figure, had surrendered himself in 
order to spare the sufferings of his dependants. All seemed over; 
a small army of occupation was left, while Belisarius returned to 
enjoy his triumph at Byzantium, taking with him the Vandal 
nobility, who were formed into a cavalry corps stationed on the 
Persian frontier. Everything was done to restore the old condi- 
tions in Africa. The Catholic clergy were favoured, and severe 
measures taken against Donatists, Arians, and pagans. The 
Roman landowners were to receive back their estates; but legal 
claims going back over a century presented serious difficulties. 
Moreover, discontent soon arose when it became apparent that 
their contributions to the Imperial revenues were the chief 
cause of Justinian's solicitude for their welfare. 

Greater troubles, however, were in store for the African 
provinces. While medals were being struck in Constantinople, 
and hymns of triumph resounded in the Hippodrome, the Roman 
power in Africa was threatened by the attacks of Berber chief- 
tains, who swept down from their mountain-fastnesses in con- 
tinual razzias. Solomon, the Byzantine general, succeeded finally 
in driving them back, and even pursued them into the hills, but 
the Byzantine tactics (and they fought always according to rule) 
were not suitable for dealing with these light horsemen and 
camel-mounted raiders. The heavy armour of the Roman troops 
was designed more for defence than attack, and the increasing 
use of the bow produced an addiction to long-distance fighting 


which did not improve the morale. Insubordination also was 
rife, and continual mutinies took place, the commander-in- 
chief being sometimes obliged to flee for his life. A succession of 
heroic figures Solomon, Germanus, John Troglita enabled 
the Roman power to surmount these crises, and thanks to the 
fact that the Moorish chieftains, divided by perpetual feuds, 
were incapable of united action, by 548 the Imperial autho- 
rity was permanently established, and the ravaged provinces 
had rest. 

In a vigorous passage of his Secret History, Procopius de- 
nounces the African conquest, which cost, he says, the lives of 
five million men, and left the country impoverished and depopu- 
lated, a prey to Moorish inroads, grinding taxation, religious 
oppression, and military insurrection. There is reason to think 
that this picture is overdrawn. The vast ruins of noble cities still 
visible in that region bear witness by their walls and aque- 
ducts, many of which date from this period, to the forethought 
of Justinian. The frontier fortresses are interesting not only in 
themselves, as displaying many of the features moat, keep, 
bailey, flanking-towers, crenellation, &c. usually associated 
with medieval fortification, but also as forming part of a huge 
defensive system, extending to the slopes of the Aurasian Moun- 
tains and the uplands of Numidia, of walled refuges for the 
peasants during Moorish raids. The churches and spacious 
monasteries in the interior continue the Roman basilican style, 
embellished with Byzantine ornament, while on the coast Greek 
influence is paramount, and has left traces in delicate capitals 
and mouldings. Mosaic floors display in vivid colours the excite- 
ments of the hippodrome and the fashions of the period. The 
activity of the Church is shown by an efflorescence of councils 
and controversial literature. Numerous remains of farmsteads, 
irrigation works, and oil-presses indicate the widespread fertility 
of the country. To the Mahometan invaders, a century later, the 
coastline from Tripoli to Tangier seemed one continuous orchard 
set with scattered habitations. 

In Italy Imperial intervention was even more opportune. 
The equipoise of Theoderic's dualistic state had been destroyed 


by the death of the strong personality who had held the scales. 
His daughter, Amalasuntha, had acted as regent for her ten- 
year-old son, who had been proclaimed king immediately on the 
death of his grandfather. The rule of a woman produced problems 
which hastened the break-up of Theoderic's system. Her Roman 
education made her suspect to the Gothic warriors, while Byzan- 
tium used her as a pawn in the Imperial game, and perhaps even 
connived at her death. Regarding the throne as an Amal pre- 
rogative, she was determined to keep it even after the death of 
her son, while still in his minority; but, like the rest of her people, 
she had small sense of national unity, and did not hesitate to 
negotiate secretly with Justinian when her position became 

It is an illuminating fact that each successive Gothic leader 
Theodahad, Witiges, Hildebad, Erarich, Totila regarded his 
relations with the Emperor as something purely personal, not un- 
like the bargaining of Theoderic, the semi-independent magister 
militum, with the Emperor Zeno, before setting out for the con- 
quest of Italy. But at the same time they appealed, inconsistently, 
to the arrangement made with Anastasius 1 as forming a sort 'of 
legal foundation for the Romano-Gothic State. They failed 
utterly to perceive that the position of Theoderic, deliberately 
unformulated, had in fact only been preserved by a network of 
foreign alliance without, and religious and political harmony 
within, which enabled him to show a firm front to Byzantium. 
The ascendancy of the Franks, the intrigue? of the Catholics, and 
the discontent of the senatorial class had already undermined 
this structure before the death of Theoderic. 

Amalasuntha, unable to maintain herself against the Gothic 
opposition, decided to share the throne with her cousin Theo- 
dahad, another type, even more remarkable, of Romanized barba- 
rian. Platonist and pacifist, he had one more consuming passion, 
the acquisition of landed property. He was ready to exchange 
Italy, he secretly assured Justinian in later negotiations, for an 
estate and a position at the Imperial Court. By his orders Amal- 
asuntha was imprisoned on an island in the Lake of Bolsena, and 
subsequently put to death. This was the signal for the Byzantine 

1 See p. 69. 


attack. Italy was to be invaded by land from Dalmatia, and 
by sea from Africa. In 536 an Imperial force seized Salona, the 
capital of Dalmatia, while Belisarius led an army of about 7,500 
men into Sicily. The smallness of his forces is remarkable, con- 
sidering his aims and his achievements. It was to some extent set 
off by the superior organization and strategy with which he 
opposed the incoherent barbarian masses. But it made him 
practically unable to fight a pitched battle, and this determined 
the nature of the war, in which castles and sieges play a prominent 

The military genius of Belisarius is seen at its highest under 
these conditions. As an exemplary professional soldier, brave in 
the field, resourceful in tactics, he had secured the devotion of his 
motley troops in the campaigns of three continents, and he was 
invaluable to Justinian for the same reason, since he had no 
political ambitions and was unswerving in his loyalty to the 
throne. Yet his very success aroused constant suspicion in the 
Emperor's mind; he was stinted of men arid money, and harassed 
by hostile colleagues in the command. His lack of political sense 
led occasionally to grave blunders, and his subservience to his 
wife Antonina, bosom friend of the Empress, drew him into the 
complicated intrigues of the Palace. He falls short of heroic 
stature; yet a balance struck between his limitations, external 
and internal, and his astonishing achievements shows him clearly 
the greatest general of his century. 

Sicily fell almost without a blow; it had been barely occupied 
by the Goths, and its landowners received the Byzantine troops 
with open arms. Naples, the Gothic centre of Campania, 
was the next objective, and after an exciting siege it yielded 
to assault, not without the occurrence of some regrettable 
incidents. The commercial population was less ready than 
feudal Sicily or Bruttium to welcome the Imperial forces, whose 
Huns, Isaurians, and Slavs seemed to it more to be dreaded 
than the Goths. 

Theodahad, meanwhile, futile and desperate, had been treat- 
ing with the Emperor; but a success in Dalmatia nerved him to 
repudiate the offer already mentioned, and no result was reached. 
The fall of Naples sealed his doom. He was deposed by the Gothic 


army, and Witiges, one of Theoderic's generals, elected in his 
stead. The main Gothic settlements were in North Italy, and 
Witiges immediately withdrew to Ravenna to organize his forces, 
leaving Rome open to the Byzantines. Belisarius occupied the 
city, and spent the winter of 536-7 in repairing the ruined walls. 
He realized the importance of holding the capital, though to 
many Romans it seemed a fantastic notion to defend with 5,000 
men a circuit of over twelve miles against the attacks often or 
twenty times their number. The story of the siege is a succession 
of picturesque and thrilling incidents, beginning with the escape 
of Belisarius, on his iron-grey charger with the white blaze, from 
the pursuing cavalry, and his arrival before the city gates, which 
would not open at first to the riders covered in dust and blood. 
Treachery and panic were rife within. More than once the Goths 
seemed on the point of forcing an entrance by storming some 
weak point, or creeping up under the portico of St. Peter's, to be 
assailed by broken statues torn from Hadrian's mausoleum. 
Belisarius held on grimly until tardy reinforcements arrived, 
and in March 538 the year-long siege was raised. The way was 
now open for further advance, and the Gothic strongholds of 
Central Italy were attacked; by the end of 539 the Byzantine 
troops were closing in on Ravenna. A curious episode follows, 
which brings out forcibly the Gothic and Byzantine characters. 
Justinian, faced with the prospect of a Persian war, was ready to 
grant terms to the Goths, leaving them in possession of the lands 
north of the Po. Belisarius, however, would not be baulked of his 
victory, and refused to ratify the agreement. The Goths, in dis- 
may, seeing themselves landless, offered him the crown, and 
Witiges consented to abdicate. Belisarius accepted, but once 
inside Ravenna he threw off the treacherous pretence. The 
Goths were helpless, and no further resistance was possible. 
Witiges and his retinue were sent to Byzantium. Justinian added 
the name 'Gothicus' to his other titles, and a praetorian prefect 
was dispatched to govern the reconquered province, while most 
of the troops were transferred to the East. 

What followed was, in the eyes of Byzantium, mere rebellion. 
But it was a very formidable rebellion. Fourteen years of warfare 
were needed to complete the subjugation of Italy. Under the 


resolute leadership of Totila, the Goths reduced the Byzantine 
hold on the peninsula to the garrisons of coastal towns and isolated 
strongholds. Their purpose was to dominate the plains, and in 
this way secure for themselves the tribute which would otherwise 
have gone to the Byzantine exchequer. At the same time skilful 
use was made of the unpopularity of the 'Greeks' and their 
administration, and the coloni were supported against their 
masters. By the expropriated landlords, and the Catholic clergy 
who supported their regime, Totila was looked upon as tyrant 
and heretic; to the peasants, relieved of many of their feudal 
corvees, he came as a deliverer. The small Byzantine armies could 
not oppose him in the field; Rome was taken and retaken; Beli- 
sarius, after a hopeless struggle carried on with insufficient means, 
was finally recalled, a confessed failure. In 549 Totila presided 
in state at the Roman Hippodrome, and began to restore the 
buildings of the capital, while his fleet ravaged the coasts of 
Dalmatia. 'The whole of the West', according to Procopius, 'was 
in barbarian hands.' 

At this point, moved perhaps by the influential Roman emigres 
at his Court, Justinian decided to send out, for once, a really 
adequate expeditionary force. After some delays in Dalmatia, 
Narses, the veteran eunuch, easily evading the defensive system 
of Totila, entered Ravenna by the coastal road. His barbaric 
troops Lombards, Heruls, Huns formed the greater part were 
sufficient in number to face the enemy in the field, and the mili- 
tary science of Narses gave them the advantage. A decision was 
now imminent. Totila hastened from Rome, and at the great 
battle of Busta Gallorum (552), in the Apennines, the Gothic 
forces were crushingly defeated. Totila himself was killed. With 
their backs to the wall, the Goths put up a desperate fight; the 
garrisons of South Italy capitulated in 555; Brescia and Verona, 
aided by Frankish forces, held out till 563. 

Narses, says a naive chronicler, restored to Italy 'its former joy' 
(pristinum gaudium) . The 'Pragmatic Sanction 5 , issued in 554, is 
a deliberate attempt on the part of Justinian to set the clock back, 
if not to 476, at least to the period before Totila had dispossessed 
the Italian landholders and liberated their serfs. An Exarch was 
henceforth stationed at Ravenna, holding supreme command 


over the province; all the old civil machinery was replaced, and 
Justinian believed that by his efforts the Roman Empire had 
finally regained the country of its origin. What he had actually 
done was something very different. By destroying the Gothic 
power he had removed the only possible barrier against ihe 
barbarous Lombard hosts, who poured into Italy a few years 
after his death. 

Justinian's tax-gatherers had completed the ruin of a devas- 
tated country. The rural districts were depopulated, the cities 
in decay. Rome, five times captured in the wars, was a desolate 
place of vast ruins; her trade was gone; her people must depend 
henceforward on pilgrims' alms and papal charity. The aque- 
ducts were cut, and the huge baths stood idle, while the fertile 
Campagna was fast becoming the melancholy and malarial plain 
which until recent times surrounded the capital. 'Bread and 
circuses' were no longer. The last games had been held under 
Totila; Justinian finally put a stop to the supplies of free corn. 
Consuls and Senate gradually disappeared. Many nobles 
migrated to Byzantium, leaving their palaces to crumble into 

Over all Italy crept the shadow of resignation and apathy. 
For the man of quiet life there was nothing left to hope for in this 
world. His refuge was the cloister, and the new system of Bene- 
dict of Nursia, which met this need, soon spread over the West, 
supplanting the earlier form which had been brought from Egypt 
to the monasteries of southern France. Although the rule of 
Benedict borrows much from its predecessors, its spirit of self- 
subordination, of regular, moderate living is very different from 
the fiery, individualist, competitive asceticism of the Thebaid. 
Sufficient food, sleep s exercise, and clothing are allowed, while 
excessive effort, whether intellectual or physical, is not exacted. 
The services to learning, agriculture, and building rendered by 
the later Benedictines were still to come. 1 Cassiodorus, however, 
had introduced the copying of manuscripts into the monastery 

1 Dom Cuthbert Butler, O.S.B. clearly distinguishes Benedict's original idea 
from the subsequent developments (Benedictine Monachism, 2nd ed., chap. Hi, 
London, 1924). 

4145 E 


at Squillace which he founded in his old age, and his devotion to 
classical literature and to the vanishing purity of the Latin tongue 
has preserved for posterity, beside the curiously alembicated 
tincture of antique thought and letters which Lactantius and 
Jerome, Ambrose and Augustine furnished to their medieval 
readers, the poetry of Virgil and Horace and the prose of Cicero, 
Livy, and Quintilian. The Benedictines, not long after the death 
of their founder, seem to have taken over the practice of repro- 
ducing manuscripts; but Benedict himself, scienter nescius et sapi- 
enter indoctus? did not encourage it. Summa quies is, indeed, the 
keynote of his rule, and this was to be found (to quote the exquisite 
closing cadences of Newman's well-known passage) e in the nil 
admirari\ in having neither hope nor fear of anything below; in 
daily prayer, daily bread, and daily work, one day being just 
like another,, except that it was one step nearer than the day before 
it to that great Day which would swallow up all days, the day of 
everlasting rest 5 . 

The success of Justinian in the Western 'adventure was 
chequered by deep shadows. Brilliant conquests, achieved by 
wholly disproportionate forces, were set off by equally striking 
weaknesses and dangers. Broadly speaking, the Byzantine hold 
on the western Mediterranean was that of a sea power. Although 
the western provinces of Africa had been abandoned, the coastal 
towns were held as far as the Straits of Gibraltar. The maritime 
cities of southern Spain were reconquered from the Visigoths. 
Provence was now in Prankish hands, and the Italian prefecture 
was reduced to the actual peninsula, for Raetia and Noricum 
were Roman no longer, and Corsica and Sardinia, as a result of 
the Vandal conquests, were now grouped with Africa, while 
Sicily was under the direct control of the Emperor. The course 
of the Gothic War had foreshadowed the fate of the inland parts 
of Italy; the Imperial forces were not sufficient to protect them 
from northern inroads, and they were destined before long to be 
carved into Lombard duchies. But the districts round Venice, 
Ravenna, Naples, and Rome, as well as southern Calabria, re- 
mained in Byzantine hands, and the Imperial government, or 

1 Greg. Dial, ii, Praef. 


exarchate, at Ravenna was not extinguished for two centuries. 1 
The increased importance of this city is shown by the magnificent 
churches which date from this period, while the effects of the 
half-century which had transformed Rome, the most glorious 
city of the West, into a decayed provincial town, a humble depen- 
dency of her eastern rival, are strikingly displayed by the con- 
trast between the intense and noble figures of the apsidal mosaic 
of SS. Cosmas and Damian (c. A.D. 530), the final expression of 
centuries of Roman art, and the flat, lifeless scenes depicted in 
the mosaic of S. Lorenzo fuori le Mure (c. 580), the production, 
it is probable, of inferior Byzantine craftsmen. The Papacy itself 
had lost all independence. One pontiff had been summarily 
deposed, another carried off to Constantinople to face insult and 
imprisonment. 2 The 6 Caesaropapism' of Justinian was continued 
by his successors, and even Gregory the Great was obliged to 
lavish flattery upon the tyrant Phocas. Yet the power of the 
Church was steadily growing; its bishops exercised increasing 
civil jurisdiction, its patrimonies swelled. It had a permanent 
organization, and could afford to wait while the means were 
being prepared for that extension of Papal influence in Western 
Europe which is the work of Gregory. 

1 'Imperial and Lombard possessions in Italy*, it has been said, 'were left so inter- 
twined that no sort of national unity was possible'. Thus the Byzantine conquest is 
partly responsible for the lack of national feeling which determined so much of the 
subsequent history of Italy. 

2 See below, p. 116. 


Ethe West Justinian had pursued an offensive policy; in the 
last his aims are deliberately defensive. Stability on the 
frontiers was to be maintained by immense systems of walls and 
fortresses; if other means failed, the barbarian must be bought 
off. Stability inside the Empire was to be secured by administra- 
tive reform; besides lessening the chances of disorder, this would, 
by increasing the prosperity of the inhabitants, and by improving 
the fiscal machinery, guarantee for Justinian his all-important 
revenues. It was not that he deliberately sacrificed the welfare of 
his subjects to his own financial needs; in his philosophy, ruler 
and people had equal duties to the Empire of which they formed 
a part his to conquer, theirs to enable him to do so by paying 
cheerfully the taxes demanded of them. 

In two great ordinances of A.D. 535 Justinian began his work 
of reform. Detailed instructions were given for the arrange- 
ments of each separate province; only the leading principles can 
be mentioned here. One of the chief abuses consisted of the 
excessive fees (suffragia), amounting really to premiums, which 
officials had to pay for obtaining their posts ; as a result, they were 
driven to recoup themselves by extortion and dishonesty of all 
kinds, and from the great ministers of the capital down to the 
humblest police and soldiers of the provinces the whole admini- 
stration was riddled with corrupt practices . Crowds of petitioners 
flocked to Constantinople; the central officers could not get 
reliable information about the provincial governments, and the 
officials, if brought to book, pleaded the exigencies of the suffragia 
as their excuse. This excuse was now removed; in future, only 
light fees were to be paid on entering office. Rigorous orders 
were given for the cleansing of the administration. The governors 
are to have c pure hands' the phrase runs like a leit-motif through 
all the ordinances. They are to render equitable justice, to pro- 
tect their subjects from the violence of the military or the exac- 
tions of subordinate officials; to hold the balance between rich 
and poor, to respect equally the rights of Church and State. But 


their first duty is e to increase the revenues of the fisc, and do their 
utmost to defend its interests'. The orders were reinforced by 
a terrible oath, which each new governor was made to swear; if 
he failed in his duty, he would incur 'the rigours of the dreadful 
judgement of God, the fate of Judas, the leprosy of Gehazi, the 
palsy of Cain 5 . In some parts of the Empire, important simpli- 
fications were made in the administrative system. Provinces were 
combined into larger units, dioceses disappeared, and military 
and civil powers were occasionally united a change fore- 
shadowing the 'themes' of subsequent Byzantine history. Legal 
procedure was also simplified; it was made easier to carry an 
appeal to the governor of the province, but harder to appeal 
directly to Constantinople; this gave speedier local justice, while 
preventing congestion in the law-courts of the capital. 

By these 'splendid conceptions' Justinian hoped that he had 
given the State 'a new flowering rime'. The next twenty-nine 
years were to prove him wrong. They show an incessant 
renewal of the same edicts, an endless repetition of the same 
threats and recriminations. The case was hopeless, and the 
reason lay partly in the system itself, partly in the Imperial 
policy. The vast and complicated machinery of government, 
with centuries of corruption behind it, offered a dead weight of 
resistance to any reform. And Justinian's continually growing 
need of money proved too strong for any real improvement to 
be possible. 

Contemporary writers are full of the miseries of the unfortunate 
subjects of Justinian. Each province had its tales of injustice, its 
notorious oppressors. A regular cycle of legends about such men 
was current in the bazaars. John Tuffycheeks', governor of Asia, 
had insulted the bishop, driven an old man to suicide, violated the 
children of the notables. John 'Scissors' in Italy was famous for 
his skill in clipping the coinage. In the capital itself, John of 
Cappadocia, when head of the financial administration, had 
installed a torture-chamber for recalcitrant taxpayers in the dun- 
geons of his official residence, while Tribonian, when minister of 
justice, trafficked openly in legal decisions. As need grew, fresh 
taxes were imposed; monopolies and tariffs were added to the 
traditional burdens of the land-tax and those connected with the 


transport and provisioning of troops. 1 The cities of Asia Minor, 
whose stable conditions and flourishing trade during the pre- 
ceding century had enabled the Empire in the East to avoid the 
bankruptcy which had overtaken the West, now felt the full pres- 
sure of Justinian's demands : for the Balkans were ravaged by Huns 
and Slavs, and Syria had been devastated by Persian inroads; 
from neither of these regions could increased revenue be extorted. 
And, in spite of everything, the revenuewas insufficient: theclose 
of the long reign saw fortresses neglected, the soldiers' pay in 
arrears, the frontier garrisons cut down; and the vicious circle 
closed when the defenceless empire had to pay ruinously for these 
false economies, in swelling subsidies to its barbarian neighbours. 

Justinian's passion for order and uniformity found a more 
successful outlet in the abstract sphere of legislation. The task 
before him was enormous, and the achievement, considering the 
difficulties encountered, a very notable one. Roman Law con- 
sisted of two masses which were usually distinguished as old law 
(i us veins) and new law (ius novum) . The old law consisted princi- 
pally of the statutes of the Republic and early Empire, the 
decrees of the senate during the same period, and the comments 
of contemporary jurists. These formed a vast conglomeration: 
some of them were inaccessible, others had become obsolete, and 
there were numerous discrepancies and contradictions. One 
jurist might be quoted against another, and no judge or lawyer 
could feel sure that some obscure opinion might not be produced 
against him in court which would upset his arguments. The new 
law comprised the ordinances of the Emperors in subsequent 
times. Here, too, there were uncertainties; one decree might 
repeal another, and no complete collection of the decrees had 
yet been made. But it was an easier problem than the other, and 
so in 528, the year after his accession, Justinian began his great 
work by appointing a commission of ten to go through the ius 
novum, removing contradictions and redundancies, and gathering 
the most valuable part of the rest into one volume often books. 
This was the famous ( Codex lustinianus', and its success en- 
couraged the Emperor to proceed to the ius vetus. A new com- 

1 See above, p. 8. 


mission was appointed in 530 to deal with the enormous mass 
of literature involved, which consisted of no less than 2,000 
treatises. Out of the writings of all the recognized jurists, one 
statement of the law on each point was to be selected; and the 
expressions of the author were to be changed wherever clearness 
demanded it, or the requirements of the time. The results of this 
process were the fifty books which comprise what are known as 
the Digest or Pandects, the most remarkable and important law- 
book that the world has ever seen, both in itself and in the influ- 
ence it has exercised on all subsequent legislation. It is open to 
criticism in several respects. The work was done in haste, and the 
arrangement is by no means ideal. It is not, properly speaking, 
a codification, a reduction of previous laws to an organic system. 
It is more like some of the buildings of the time, where the delicate 
mouldings and reliefs of an earlier age are thrust in among coarse 
rubble and hasty brickwork, to serve as common stones in the 
clumsy fabric. In the time of her greatness Rome found her 
most perfect aesthetic expression in the art of legislation, and the 
'elegance 3 of her legal formulae, the brilliance of her solutions, 
have never been surpassed. The jurists of the sixth century were 
not content merely to abstract from their illustrious predecessors. 
Subtle interpretations were misunderstood, and in consequence 
perverted, essential phraseology was cut and mutilated, Hellen- 
istic and Oriental conceptions were introduced into the Roman 

These defects were perhaps inevitable. A more perfect re- 
daction could not have been accomplished in the time, and under 
the conditions ofjustinian's reign. As it stands, it is the complete 
expression of the period. In its insistence on the Latin language 
and the Latin heritage, in its doctrines of Imperial absolutism it 
looks back to the long roll of Caesars. In its increased humanity, 
its recognition of the rights of the individual, its checks on the 
patria potestas, it records the long progress of ancient thought. 
And the influence of the Church is plainly visible in the increasing 
severity of laws concerning divorce and sexual offences. 

In order to complete his legislative work Justinian published 
the Institutes, an elementary text-book for the use of students. 
Legal education was also reorganized, and detailed regulations 


were issued for the three great universities of Rome, Constanti- 
nople, and Beirut. Nothing was to be left to chance or change. 
No further commentaries were allowed; translations must be 
strictly literal. Only to the Emperor himself was/urther leg&la^ 
tion permitted; and it is curiouslyjromcal that, in spite of the 
Insistence onJLatin^as the official jgnguage, ...most _of these later 
laws are written in Greek, that they may be 'better understanded 
of the people', while no penalties could prevent the appearance 
of a flood of Greek paraphrases of the 'immutable' Pandects and 

In the West the direct influence of Justinian's legal code was 
hardly felt. Roman law was known mainly through the code 
which Alaric, the Visigoth king, had produced some thirty years 
earlier, a practical compilation for the use of his people in Gaul 
and Spain, in which the simpler of the Roman legal conceptions 
were skilfully harmonized with the conditions of the time and the 
tribal customs of the Goths. It was not until the eleventh century 
that Justinian's code began to be studied systematically in Pro- 
vence, Lombardy, Ravenna, and Bologna. But Roman law 
made itself felt not only in the regions containing a predomi- 
nantly Romanized population, but also wherever the growth of 
trade, the claims of the Church, or the revival of legal thought 
demanded nicer distinctions and more logical categories. It 
became, in later times, a powerful weapon in the hands of an 
ambitious prince or grasping bishop, seeking to override the 
limitations of feudalism by assuming the absolute prerogatives 
of a Justinian. 

The absolutism in question found perhaps its most striking 
expression in the ecclesiastical sphere, where it resulted in what 
has sometimes been called c Caesaropapism'. Justirdanjvas not 
content to regulate the Church by detailed legislation; in 
doctrinal disputes he exerted to the fuljjris Imperial prerogatives 
of convoking councils and assigning limits. Imperial ministers 
presided, messengers hurried to and fro from the Palace, and 
if the decision were in doubt the Emperor would occasionally 
intervene in person. Though formally distinct, 1 Church and 
1 JVw. 6, praef. (A.D. 535). 


State were actually one, and political considerations guided 
Justinian along the road into which his theological interests had 
already led him. Foremost among these considerations was the 
unity of his empire; and this was to be obtained by two means 
force and conciliation. The treatment accorded to heretics illus- 
trates both methods, and furnishes at the same time an example 
of the way in which politics and dogma intermingled in the 
Imperial policy. In theory the heretic had forfeited all rights, 
public and private. *J_t isj^st^saidjj^^ of 

their worldly goods those who do not worship-the .True-God^-fa, 
practice there were m^nY^djstmctions and degrees. Politically 
insignificant heresies could be crushed. For Manichees, death 
was the only punishment; usually they were burnt alive. Pagan- 
ism, for the most part a dwindling remnant of scattered super- 
stitions, was severely handled. In isolated valleys and lonely 
hill-towns the old beliefs still lingered; at Baalbek immemorial 
rites were still celebrated in the temple, and in the Libyan desert 
Jupiter Ammon still gave his oracles, though he had at this time 
retired to a more inaccessible oasis, where he was worshipped in 
company with Alexander, now become a god. This shrine was 
transformed into the Church of St. Mary, and the temple of Isis 
at Philae, on the Nubian border, was also made into a Christian 
centre. Paganism still had its adherents among the educated 
classes, and stringent laws were accordingly directed against 
them. They might not inherit, or enter into contracts; they were 
debarred from holding any office, except those which were in 
themselves a penalty, like the curia. An inquisition at Constanti- 
nople discovered a number of distinguished pagans, including 
university teachers and doctors; many of them were scourged and 
imprisoned. In Palestine the Jews had lost their centre of revolt, 
and submitted, under protest, to the regulation by Imperial 
decree of their text of the Scriptures; but the Samaritans, goaded 
by excessive taxes and Christian persecution, broke into riot on 
their hill-tops, and were almost exterminated by severe punitive 
measures. In the West political considerations were even more 
apparent. The Donatists in Africa were deprived of their pro- 
perty and churches; they had been in league with the anti- 
Imperial forces. The Arian clergy were solidly organized, and 


Justinian would have allowed them to remain on condition that 
they embraced the orthodox faith, but the hatred of the Catholics, 
who had suffered much from them, was implacable, and these 
latter were supported by the Pope. Justinian accordingly acceded 
to their demands for vengeance. In Italy other causes favoured 
the spoliation of the Arian churches. Their Gothic sympathies 
were an excuse, their great riches an incentive to the hand of the 

The Monophysites were on an entirely different footing. Up 
till 541 they are called 'the hesitants', and Justinian reasoned 
with them as erring brethren. Sterner measures followed, but 
conciliation was always in view. The problem was fundamental 
to the safety of the Empire. On one side were the prosperous and 
powerful Monophysite cities of Egypt and Asia Minor, the back- 
bone of the Imperial budget. On the other was the Catholic 
opposition at Constantinople, and above all the Pope, supported 
by the great majority of the Western bishops. To retain the 
allegiance of the East, already threatened by conflicting interests 
and national animosities, without losing the support of the newly 
conquered West, was a difficult, possibly a hopeless task. At all 
events, Justinian's complicated policy was not unworthy of a 
great Emperor. In this policy he was ably seconded by Theodora, 
whose Monophysite sympathies were well known. The early 
years of his reign showed that he was prepared to recede from the 
extreme Catholic position taken up by Justin. In 529 persecu- 
tion of the Monophysites ceased, and the exiles were recalled. 
In 532 a conference was called at Byzantium. It failed to recon- 
cile the two parties, but Justinian did not abandon hope, though 
he felt it wise to publish a rescript declaring his orthodoxy, in 
order to reassure the Pope. In 535 the Monophysites were in the 
ascendant. Anthemius, one of their number, was made bishop of 
Constantinople, and at once got into touch with the patriarchs 
of Alexandria and Jerusalem. Meanwhile John of Tellas, a fiery 
preacher, spread Monophysite doctrines in his wanderings over 
Asia Minor. Monophysite monks flocked to the capital, and 
fashionable people would have their children baptized in Mono- 
physite churches, and entertain Monophysite chaplains at their 
board. The following year saw a remarkable change. The Pope, 


Agapitus, arrived in Byzantium on an embassy from the Ostro- 
goths. He lost no time in excommunicating Anthemius, and, 
supported by the Catholic party, convoked a synod which de- 
posed him and other bishops. Justinian was induced to ratify the 
decision. Persecution began again. In Syria, Armenia, Meso- 
potamia, Monophysite monks were hunted down, starved, 
whipped, and burnt alive in market-places. John of Tellas was 
captured and put to death with slow tortures by Ephraim, 
bishop of Antioch. The Pope died shortly afterwards, but his 
able legate, Pelagius, exercised great influence at Court. Even 
in Egypt temporary submission to the decisions of Chalcedon 
was imposed upon the cowed populace. 

Theodora now played a dramatic counter-stroke. Rome, 
occupied at the moment by Belisarius, was forced to accept her 
nominee, the supple deacon Vigilius, as the new Pope. Justinian's 
hopes of the unity of East and West were raised anew. The Mono- 
physite party at Byzantium regained its lost ground, and Jacob 
Baradaeus, the strenuous Monophysite monk from whom the 
Jacobite church derives its name, took up again the missionary 
work of John of Tellas in Asia Minor, meeting with even greater 
success than his predecessor. Monophysite influence grew 
steadily from this time until the death of Theodora in 548. The 
culmination of the struggle was the famous affair of the 
'Three Chapters', which lasted from 543 till 554. l Apart from 
the intrigues connected with it the controversy can be regarded 
as a stage in the long series of efforts to conciliate East and West 
which began with the Henoticon of Zeno and ended with the 
proposed Monergetic solution of Heraclius. Soon after this the 
Monophysite provinces passed under Moslfem domination, and 
the necessity for combating the separatist tendencies of Syria 
and Egypt ceased to exist. The means employed by the 
emperor in pursuit of the policy, inevitable for any Byzantine 
ruler, of political and religious unity are not without interest. 
Justinian opened the contest in 543 by issuing a condemnation of 
the Three Chapters. He hoped for the acquiescence of the Pope, 
but Vigilius, on his native heath, was not to be browbeaten. It 
was necessary to kidnap him, take him to Byzantium, and subject 

1 See Appendix B, p. 272- 


him to various threats and indignities before he consented, in 
548, to condemn the Three Chapters. The publication of his 
Judicatum to this effect raised a storm of protest among the 
bishops of Africa, Dalmatia, and Illyricum, and in 550 Justinian 
allowed him to withdraw the Judicatum, in hopes of succeeding 
by less violent measures. But his hopes proving abortive, he 
resorted again to coercion, harrying the African bishops, and ill- 
treating Vigilius, who was practically a prisoner in Byzantium, 
to the great scandal of the faithful. In 554 Vigilius, broken in 
health, gave way, and in his second Constitutum finally condemned 
the Three Chapters. Justinian now endeavoured to enforce his 
will upon the Western bishoprics, but Italy proved obdurate. 
Vigilius was succeeded in the Papal chair by Pelagius, the legate 
at Byzantium, who had receded somewhat from his Catholic 
position in order to placate Justinian. The North Italian bishops, 
already jealous of the encroachments of the Roman see, seized 
the opportunity to break off relations, and this minor schism 
lasted till the end of the seventh century. 

On the whole Justinian had failed. The East remained un- 
reconciled; the West was subdued, but sullen and discontented. 
Ominous murmurs began to make themselves heard. 'Only 
Christ is King and Priest', declared Facundus in Africa. The 
Emperor should execute the canons of the Church, not fix or 
transgress them.' Yet Justinian's ideal of unity was a great one; 
and in an estimate of his ecclesiastical policy one should not 
forget what is perhaps the most brilliant aspect of it, namely the 
foreign missions, which carried the faith and culture of Byzan- 
tium from Central Europe to the Far East, and created a tradi- 
tion which, persisting throughout the Middle Ages, gave to the 
Slavs of Russia and the Balkan States a heritage of art and learn- 
ing as essential to their civilization as that which the Western 
nations owe to Rome. 

The combined use of commerce, missions, and diplomacy was 
the peculiar creation of Justinian's statecraft. It is well seen in 
Arabia, where, incidentally^ the Byzantine policy bears a striking 
resemblance to that recently pursued by certain Great Powers 
in the Near East. From Damascus to the Gulf of Akaba stretched 


a long line of bishoprics, of which Bostra and Petra were the 
metropolitan sees. Then came deserts and the Red Sea coast, the 
Hedjaz, and farther south the Himyarite country. There were 
many Jewish colonies here, and the Himyarites had mostly 
abandoned their primitive cults for the Jewish faith. On the 
Persian Gulf Christianity had gained a firm footing, having 
spread from Persia, where several bishoprics flourished, and had 
even penetrated into Yemen and Nejd in the interior. The in- 
terests of Persia and Byzantium clashed in these regions, for both 
were interested in the coastal trade and the Indian traffic. Well 
before the end of the fifth century Byzantium had reinforced 
her diplomatic actions. The ruler of Aksum (Abyssinia) was en- 
couraged to claim the kingdom of the Himyarites. He became 
a Christian, and the foundation of the still existing Church of 
Abyssinia dates from this time. With Byzantine support the 
Aksumite power extended for some years over the Himyarites, 
but the country was too distant for this support to prove really 
effective. About the year 570 Persia tired of the Byzantine 
intrigues, and conquered the district, which until the coming of 
Islam was ruled by Persian deputies. In Upper Egypt Christian 
missionaries played an equally important part. The Nobades, 
a wild tribe, were converted about 540 by a Monophysite mission, 
and were used as a check to their still more troublesome neigh- 
bours, the Blemmyes, who were thrown back into the desert, 
while the Nobades took their place on the frontier. Longinus, 
a remarkable personality, seems to have penetrated about the 
year 578, on his evangelizing journeys, to the upper waters of the 
Blue Nile. On the outposts of Empire, sectarian differences are 
felt less strongly, and Justinian knew how to choose the best men, 
and gave whole-hearted support to Monophysite workers in this 
field which he would have hesitated to bestow nearer home. 

The monk was an integral part of his diplomacy. At many a 
barbarian court Byzantine priests became the trusted counsellors 
of the king, and obtained ascendancy over the women, eager to 
embrace a mystic faith, while in the train of Christianity came a 
new culture and a new world of ideas. More material methods 
were not lacking. The Berber chieftain was proud to wear the 
ceremonial burnous, the diadems, medals, brooches, and purple 


boots bestowed upon him in reward for his loyalty. The King of 
Lazica, in the Caucasus, for similar reasons, was made an officer 
in the Imperial Guards. To other rulers were given wives from 
the Byzantine nobility, and their sons were often sent to receive 
their education in the Palace. Nor were the traditional Roman 
ways forgotten. Political exiles, rival princes, pretenders, and 
adventurers were encouraged to visit the capital, and provided 
a ready excuse for Byzantine interference in the internal affairs 
of their countries. Lands and subsidies were bestowed with a 
lavish hand, and the well-tried policy of setting a thief to catch a 
thief 1 was assiduously practised, Moorish sheikhs being incited 
against each other, Franks supported against Goths, Gepids 
checked by Lombards, Bulgars by Huns, and Huns by Avars. 

The defence of the long Eastern frontier gave occasion for all 
these methods. Behind it lay the great Persian Empire, the only 
state with which Byzantium treated on equal terms. Age-long 
antagonism had resulted in mutual understanding, and there 
were even suggestions of a kind of concerted 'Weltpolitik'. The 
Roman and Sasanid Empires, declared a Persian ambassador on 
-one occasion, were like two lighthouses illuminating the world. 
Instead of attacking, they should support each other. Chosroes 
wrote to the Emperor Maurice, They are to the world what his 
two eyes are to a man'. From a brief survey of the geography of 
this region it will be seen that physical conditions contributed to 
maintain for centuries a fairly stationary frontier-line, and to 
standardize, as they do to this day, the methods of protecting it. 
On the north the key of Justinian's defensive system against the 
menace of the steppes was the Crimea, which was strongly 
fortified and garrisoned. From this centre radiated lines of com- 
merce, and Byzantine influence was exercised upon the tribes of 
South Russia. The Tetraxite Goths, immediately to the north, 
round the Sea of Azov, had long been Christians, and fear of the 
Huns bound them to the Empire. Westwards, between Don and 
Danube, were the Kutrugurian Huns, whose king, Grod, had 
received baptism, Justinian himself standing sponsor at the font. 
But their presence on the Black Sea was a danger, and so the 
1 Cf. pp. 4 8, 54, 62. 



Utrigurian Huns, who lived east of the Don, and were con- 
sidered more harmless, because more distant, were encouraged 
by Byzantium to attack their kinsfolk. At the eastern end of the 
Black Sea was the land of Colchis, whither Jason had once fared 
in search of the Golden Fleece. This myth has been interpreted 
as a poetic account of the rich merchandise from India and China 
brought down to the Black Sea at this point. Whether or not such 
a caravan route was in use across Central Asia at so early a date, 
in the sixth century A.D. Lazica, as the region was called, was of 
prime importance as guarding the bridge-head of the northern- 
most connexion between Europe and the Far East. It was coveted 
by Persia, whose role in the great silk trade was only that of 
middleman, and who saw even this role threatened by a route 
which passed north of her dominions. For corresponding reasons 
Justinian was determined to retain a decisive influence over 'our 
Lazica*, as he proleptically called it. Its commercial value was 
considerable; it supplied the Empire with furs, skins, and slaves, 
and tookfrom it salt, wine, and corn. From a military point of view 
it was admirably suited for defence. With its wooded mountains 
and narrow passes it provided a barrier to the northern inroads 
of the Huns, and effectively kept Persia from access to the Black 
Sea. Already in Justin's time its king, Zathios, had come to Con- 
stantinople for baptism, had married a Byzantine wife, and had 
consented to admit Byzantine garrisons to his castles. Justinian 
continued this policy, supporting the kings against unruly nobles 
and combating Persian influence, and, in spite of temporary set- 
backs, managed to maintain control not only in Lazica but 
among several of the other Caucasus tribes, such as the Abasgi 
and the Sabirian Huns, who held the 'Caspian Gates', by which 
a northern invader might threaten both Persia and Byzantium. 
In Iberia (the modern Georgia) he was not so successful; its 
geographical position rendered it dependent on Persia. Farther 
south the two Empires marched side by side along the stretches 
of the Euphrates frontier. The problem of the Euphrates had 
troubled Rome for five and a half centuries. Was it really the 
best frontier-line? Its course was very different from those of 
Rhine and Danube, which, roughly speaking, together enclosed 
Rome's European possessions. The Euphrates does not flow 


round and protect Armenia; on the contrary, the Armenian 
massif envelops the head- waters of both Tigris and Euphrates, 
making a frontier-line very difficult. Again, the border-lands of 
Rhine and Danube were cultivated, open to Roman influence, 
and accessible from the capital. The Euphrates, on the other 
hand, is separated from Syria by a wide expanse of desert; it is 
therefore harder to convey troops to it, and the advantage is all 
on the side of the Eastern power, which has a shorter journey, 
through fertile country, and a wider choice of routes to the 
frontier. Finally the Euphrates, instead of curving round the 
outskirts of the Roman Empire, flows straight down, until it 
sweeps away into the heart of the Persian dominions. To control 
the river from source to sea was plainly impossible, and Rome 
never attempted to do so. The southward limit of her influence 
came eventually to be fixed at the confluence of the Aborras 
(Circesium), where the Euphrates entered the desert. Various 
efforts were made to find other solutions, such as the Tigris line, 
for example; but the only real alternative was the conquest of 
Persia. Alexander the Great was the only Western commander 
who had succeeded in this. Augustus seems to have contemplated 
it at one time, and Trajan, Julian, and other emperors had pursued 
a forward policy in these regions. But from the end of the fourth 
century up to the Arab conquest the frontier remained practi- 
cally stationary. Rome realized that the southern, desert half of 
Mesopotamia was untenable by a Western power. The northern 
part, however, had to be held, since this district was bisected 
by the perpendicular frontier line from Amida on the Tigris 
to Circesium on the Euphrates. The key to the situation was 
Armenia, and geography proved in the end the deciding factor. 
Here, too, various solutions had been attempted by both Empires, 
ranging from complete annexation to veiled sovereignty by 
means of resident officers or princes educated in the Imperial 
capitals. A partition finally took place; 1 Rome now held only a 
quarter of Armenia, but it was the most essential part for her 
purposes, since it formed a valuable hinterland for Cappadocian 
Pontus, and at the same time constituted a base for the control 

1 Cf. p. 1 8. In the ninth century Armenia once more became a bone of con- 
tention, between Byzantium and the Arabs. 


of Lazica. The partition did not put an end to the intrigues of 
either side; Armenia, with its flourishing Church, its great fairs 
which drew merchants from Europe and Asia, its warlike people 
and ambitious nobles, provided opportunities in plenty for the 
clash of interests and the resources of diplomacy. 

It is evident that occasions for friction were not wanting on the 
Eastern frontier, and internal troubles were always an invitation 
to the opposing Empire to renew hostilities. Since the middle of 
the fifth century Persia had lost prestige. Rival claimants dis- 
puted the succession, while the royal power itself was threatened 
by the aristocracy and priesthood, and the stability of the country- 
undermined by the religious and socialist agitation of the Mazda- 
kites. On the north-east frontier the depredations of the Huns 
were causing serious trouble. Justin, accordingly, took the offen- 
sive. Payments to Persia for the upkeep of the Caucasus forts 
were discontinued; the Lazi and Iberi were tampered with, and 
an open attack made on the great frontier stronghold of Nisibis. 
Hostilities were inevitable, and 527 saw the outbreak pf the First 
Persian War. Apart from the ravaging of Syria by Persian troops, 
no serious damage was done, and when Kabad, the 75-year-old 
Persian king, died in 531, the young Chosroes, bent on securing 
the succession, was glad to make an 'eternal peace' with Byzan- 
tium. The situation, however, was now completely altered. 
Chosroes was the type of a successful Oriental monarch. Ener- 
getic and pugnacious, with a keen brain capable of appreciating 
the details of organization or the subtleties of Oriental medicine, 
he extended the boundaries of his empire during the course of a 
long reign (531-579) to the Oxus in mid-Asia, and the Yemen 
in southern Arabia. In 540 he saw his chance. Justinian had 
denuded the frontier to raise troops for his Western conquests, 
while Armenia and Lazica were becoming impatient of Byzan- 
tine hegemony. The Second Persian War lasted from 540 to 545. 
In successive years Syria was raided and Antioch sacked; Lazica 
was occupied, and Commagene, Armenia, and Mesopotamia 
felt the full weight of the Persian onset. A five-years truce was 
finally negotiated, Justinian paying a large indemnity, but 
scattered fighting continued in Lazica and among the vassal 


Arabs of Syria. No decision was reached, and in 555 another 
truce was made, followed in 561 by a fifty-years peace, under 
which the Persians were to evacuate Lazica in return for heavy 
subsidies . On the whole the status quo antea had been maintained. 
The ways of Imperial states alter little in this region, and the 
tactics of Rome and Persia are strangely similar to those of 
Turkey, Britain, and Russia in recent times. A notable instance 
is the Byzantine handling of the Arab sheikhs in Syria. Harith- 
ibn-Gabala, chief of the Ghassanids, became by Byzantine help 
the ruler of an Arabo-Roman state (a counterpoise to the power of 
the King of Hira, who was a Persian vassal) . Arethas, as the 
Byzantines called him, was made Patrician, and received a hand- 
some subsidy; Bostra, his capital, was created a metropolitan 
see, with jurisdiction over parts of Arabia and Palestine. The 
same methods were used by Persia, and to read the histories of 
Ammian or Procopius is to realize that the similarity extended 
also to the actual fighting. We find the same tactics, ruses, siege- 
craft, fortification, and even armament. The parallelism is seen 
likewise in the results of the great campaigns. The conquests of 
a Trajan or a Julian do not endure; the Persians take Lazica, 
which geographic fatality has denied them; in a few years they 
are forced to evacuate it. Chosroes ravages Syria, and even 
reaches the Mediterranean, and carries off a fragment of the 
True Cross, He has soon to restore it, and to repel invaders from 
his own territory. A deadlock had arisen; the defences were 
stronger than the attack, and it was not until the entrance of 
Islam upon the scene that the equipoise of the two Empires was 

The end of Justinian's long reign is a period of deepening 
gloom. Theodora died in 548, and deprived of her inspiration 
the aged emperor became irresolute and negligent of the affairs 
of the Empire, and concerned only with theological disputes. 
'His thoughts were all on heaven', sang Corippus, the discreet 
African poet, celebrating the accession of the new ruler. His last 
ordinance, published in 565, relates to ecclesiastical matters, and 
is stuffed with quotations from the Scriptures and the Church 
Fathers, evidence of intensive study. Since 555 there had been no 


regular wars, and the army had been dangerously reduced in 
numbers and efficiency owing to financial straits. The Persian 
frontier lay practically open, and Byzantium itself was defended 
only by its decorative guardsmen. In 558 the Danube strong- 
holds were abandoned, and the Long Wall of Anastasius was 
crumbling into ruin. The Kutrugurian Huns, provoked by the 
double-dealing of Justinian, poured into Thrace, and advanced 
to the walls of the capital. Panic ensued, and the situation was 
only saved by the prompt action of the veteran Belisarius. Four 
years later a similar attempt by the Avars was with difficulty 
repuJseclJfThe enormous cost of the buildings of Justinian, his 
wars, his Court expenses, had drained the treasury. The coinage 
was debased, the taxes increased in number and severity. The 
misery of the population was heightened by a succession of serious 
earthquakes, followed by an outbreak of plague. In Byzantium 
itself the city services were failing. One year there would be a 
scarcity of provisions; in another, the water-supply would be 
deficient. The Greens and Blues once more began to make the 
streets unsafe, and there was talk of a plot to murder the Emperor, 
while two rival Justins openly intrigued for the succession. 

In his palace sat Justinian, eighty-two years old, in the shadow 
of approaching death, caring for none of these things. Far into 
the night, with senile iteration and remorseless ingenuity, he was 
pursuing, in the company of a few aged priests, the absorbing 
problems of the charnel-house, the macabre riddle of Divine 


r-piHE ruin of Justinian's handiwork was nowhere seen so 
-L speedily as in northern Italy. A few years after his death the 
Lombards burst into the plains that lie between Alps and Po, 
and in a short time had possessed themselves of the district. From 
their original home in the Elbe region they had travelled across 
Europe by stages. By the end of the fifth century they were the 
ruling power in Hungary, and soon afterwards, by crushing the 
Heruls, they became Rome's neighbours on the Danube. Their 
conversion to Arian Christianity, and the introduction of more 
settled conditions, led to an increase in the royal power, as was 
usually the case with German peoples when thus exposed to 
Roman influences. But the culture which they acquired here 
was very slight; a century later they appeared to the Romans to 
be typical e barbarians'. Their king, though absolute, was little 
more than a war-leader chosen for a single campaign. They 
possessed no magistrates or constitution; the blood-feud still 
reigned supreme, and the real bond of society was the clan. 
Since their departure from the Elbe they had rarely remained 
settled on the same land for more than one generation, and their 
agriculture was consequently primitive, since even in Hungary 
they had left the field-work to be done by slaves and subject 
peoples, while they themselves plundered the territory of their 

Hitherto the Lombards and Gepids had been the leading forces 
on the Danube frontier, and Justinian had, in Rome's customary 
fashion, retained Sirmium, the key-point of the district, for the 
Empire by playing off one people against the other. The entry 
of the Avars, a fierce tribe of Asiatic origin, broke up this situa- 
tion. Using the Lombards as their catspaw, they destroyed the 
Gepid kingdom, taking most of the territory and booty for them- 
selves. The Lombards were now in sorry plight; their indepen- 
dence was threatened by the Avars, and the hoped-for increase of 
land was not forthcoming. In desperation they embarked upon 
what was to prove the final stage of their migration. In 568, 


under the leadership of Alboin, the Lombard host set out for 
Italy, its numbers swollen by adventurers of various races. 
Narses, governor of Italy, had just been recalled, and the frontier 
defences seem to have offered no effective resistance. Cividale 
fell, and the Friuli region was soon overrun; the Patriarch of 
Aquileia left his doomed city and fled to the lagoons of Grado. 
The Imperialists retained Padua and Mantua, holding the Po 
line, and preventing the Lombards from streaming down the 
eastern coast; but Vicenza and Verona were lost, and the frontier 
region of the southern Tirol was now cut off from Ravenna. A 
year later Alboin entered Milan, and finally, after a long siege, 
captured Pavia, which became the Lombard capital. Northern 
Italy had been torn from the Empire, but worse was to come. In 
succeeding years Ravenna and Rome itself were continually 
threatened, and Byzantine counter-attacks successfully beaten 
off, while two independent Lombard bands pressed southward 
to found the great duchies of Spoleto and Benevento. 

The death of Alboin was followed by a'kingless period of more 
than ten years. The conquest had been carried out by means of 
subordinate leaders, who were placed in command of garrisons 
in the principal towns. Gradually these 'dukes', about thirty- 
five in number, became settled in the districts they had originally 
occupied, and the 'duchies' developed into hereditary domains, 
largely independent of the central power. The weakness of the 
kingship, which permitted this independence, is the determining 
factor in Lombard history. A strong monarch might reduce to 
obedience his recalcitrant dukes, and even, on rare occasions, 
control the powerful duchies of the South. But the initial period 
of freedom had done its work. Lombardy was always a kingdom 
divided against itself. Its enemies Emperors, Popes, or Prankish 
invaders could always count on the support of some rebellious 
Lombard noble. And it was due to this lack of cohesion that the 
conquest of Italy was never brought to completion. Byzantium 
could spare few troops to reinforce her garrisons; the power of 
the Papacy was, as yet, undeveloped. It was only the weakness 
of the Lombard monarchy that saved the Imperial forces from 
being swept from the shores of Italy, and the Pope from being 
reduced to the level of a Lombard bishop. 


Preceding invaders of Italy had, as we have seen, regarded the 
Roman inhabitants as fellow-partners in the Empire. The 
Lombards, on the contrary, looked upon- them as subjects, and 
treated them like the Slavs in Hungary who had tilled the soil 
for their warrior overlords. The Roman landlords were expro- 
priated, and their -land, cattle, houses, and coloni became the 
booty of the conquerors. But it was not land, as such, that the 
Lombards wanted, it was rather the means of living in idleness, 
or in economic freedom to make war. The Roman land-organi- 
zation was therefore retained; it was merely the ownership that 
changed hands. The coloni became identical with the Lombard 
half-free class, the aldiones, and some of the poorer landholders 
seem to have shared their fate. Church property was seized with- 
out scruple, for the Arian invaders were not inclined to respect 
the rights of Catholics. By this process every free Lombard came 
to be both soldier and landowner, though the size of the holdings 
was not uniform, much of the land being retained by the dukes 
for their private estates. Under the combined influence of con- 
tinued settlement and Roman organization the clan gradually 
disappeared, and was replaced by territorial ties. The unit was 
the duchy, and the extent of these duchies coincided, on the 
whole, with the districts (civitates) previously governed by magis- 
trate and bishop, the chief town remaining the centre of admini- 
stration. The duchies of Spoleto and Benevento, however, 
covered a much larger area, and were practically independent 
principalities, being isolated from the northern Lombards by a 
belt of Imperial possessions. 

By the end of the sixth century the Lombard kingdom was 
firmly established in Italy. The monarchy had been restored 
under Authari, and owing to this reassertion of the central power 
the Lombards had not only held their own, but even increased 
their territory at the expense of Byzantium. Their chief danger at 
this period was the aggression of the Franks, who made continual 
raids into northern Italy in concert with the Imperial attacks 
from Ravenna. Authari (584-90) succeeded in ending this 
Franco-Byzantine alliance, which was, it is true, already under- 
mined by the mutual suspicions of both parties, each of which 
accused the other, with considerable justice, of playing for its own 


hand. For a century and a half, thanks to Authari's achievement, 

Lombardy was free to concentrate its defence upon a single front. 

Defence, however, was not enough. The king's position de- 
pended upon the size of his personal following, which enabled 
him to cope \vith the more powerful of his dukes. Owing to the 
lack of a regular financial system, this following had to be re- 
warded by grants of land, and this, in turn, necessitated further 
conquest. Any increase in the Lombard population worked also 
to the same end, since, as in ancient Sparta, each free warrior 
was economically dependent on his plot of land, tilled for him by 
servile labour. The result was a continual series of raids upon the 
neighbouring territory, and under this pressure the internal 
organization of Byzantine Italy transformed itself, during the 
two centuries which followed, into a military system of defence. 
Justinian had been careful to restore to Italy and Africa the 
administrative conditions of the fourth century, under which the 
military and civil powers were strictly separated. In the East, 
however, he had in some provinces favoured the union of both 
powers in the hands of a single officer, a practice which developed 
into the 'theme 5 system of later times. This policy was inevitable, 
and before long it was extended to the West. Every year the 
barbarian menace became more terrible, and there was no corre- 
sponding increase of the resources wherewith to meet it. Military 
considerations, in consequence, became paramount. Continual 
war conditions transformed the civil machinery of ancient Rome 
into medieval feudal dispositions. The soldier is now the most 
important member of the community, and in Italy a soldier 
class finally emerges as one of the chief divisions of the free popula- 
tion. The same principle is reflected both in central and local 
government. The Exarch, an official combining the supreme 
military and civil powers, is appointed at first in cases of special 
emergency, but soon becomes the regular governor of Italy, over- 
shadowing the civil prefect, whose sphere is confined to duties of 
financial supervision. In the towns the municipal council and 
officers slowly disappear before the growing power of the military 
commander, the tribunus, who adds judicial and executive roles 
to his original authority. 


Italy was now a frontier march, and every walled city became 
a fortress to be held against the enemy. From his head-quarters at 
Ravenna the Exarch directed the defensive system, elaborately 
centralized, whereby Byzantium, hard-pressed as she was by 
Avars and Bulgarians on one side, and the gathering storm of 
Arab invasion on the other, contrived nevertheless to keep her 
hold upon Italy for nearly two centuries. A notable achievement, 
in view of the peculiar difficulties presented by this province. Its 
interests were no longer identical with those of the capital. It 
mattered little to the Roman nobleman or the Italian peasant 
that Byzantium needed soldiers and money for the Eastern front. 
What immediately concerned them was the Lombard danger; 
and the Imperial forces were inadequate to deal with this, though 
troops and subsidies were from time to time dispatched for the 
purpose. It was necessary to make Italy depend on her own re- 
sources, and to this end the citizen population became a militia, 
stiffened at first by Byzantine detachments of regulars, but later 
drawn almost entirely from native sources. Under the Exarch 
were duces, controlling the new divisions into which the remnants 
of Imperial Italy had been grouped, and tribuni, commanding 
the city garrisons. Armies were maintained at strategic points, 
Ravenna, Rome, Naples, Calabria, while the fleets of Ravenna 
and Sicily secured communication by sea. On land, the main 
artery of a defence made difficult by geographical conditions was 
the road connecting Ravenna with Rome, and this was carefully 
guarded by a line of castles, and by a special force stationed at 
Perugia to control the crossing of the Apennine passes. 

Centralization went farther. Determined efforts were made 
to assimilate Italy in every way to the other provinces of the 
Empire. Greek officials were placed in charge of the administra- 
tion, and Greek methods adopted. Byzantine titles were be- 
stowed upon members of the Italian aristocracy, and when their 
loyalty had been proved, executive offices were entrusted to 
them. A host of Oriental merchants, craftsmen, pilgrims, priests, 
and monks made its way into Italy. Byzantine manners and 
dress prevailed among the upper classes. Gregory of Tours de- 
scribes the Roman noblemen whom he saw clad in silk dresses 
studded with jewels, and the mosaics of Ravenna tell the same 


story. At Venice eunuchs and separate; women's quarters re- 
called the customs of Constantinople, arid the ceremonial robes 
of the Doges betray a similar origin. In the churches of Italy 
Eastern saints and martyrs received special attention at this time. 
Dedications, for instance, to S. Michael, S. Theodore, SS. Cos- 
mas and Damian, became common, while Byzantine ritual and 
art were freely employed in the ecclesiastical buildings and 
services. Bishops and even Popes bearing Greek names are 
recorded; the Greek language became familiar once more at 
Rome. From his palace on the Palatine the Roman dux, repre- 
sentative of the Exarch, and through him of the Emperor, domi- 
nated the city with his Byzantine troops, and in every large town 
a Greek quarter was to be found, which was prepared to support 
any measures taken by the central power to restore the obedience 
of the Italian population. Most remarkable of all was the recon- 
quest of southern Italy by the speech, manners, and institutions 
of Greece, as classical Hellenism had conquered it fifteen cen- 
turies before. This process continued until the eleventh century, 
surviving even under the Norman kings, and traces of it remain 
to this day. 

In spite of this intensive organization the Byzantine power 
in Italy rested on unstable foundations. The Lombards were to 
prove the immediate cause of its downfall, but the institutions 
themselves contained the seeds of their decay. The actual com- 
pleteness of the centralizing process contributed, when the weak- 
ness of the directing centre became manifest, to the emergence of 
local forces. The Greeks had never, even when they 'came to 
deliver Italy from the Ostrogoths, received the whole-hearted 
support of the populace, and the exactions and rapacity of the 
Byzantine officials did little to increase their popularity. The 
antagonism between East and West, fostered by the fact that 
their interests were becoming increasingly divergent, was brought 
to a head by religious controversy. The rulers of Byzantium, 
bent at all costs on preserving the unity of the Empire, made 
continual efforts during these centuries to impose compromises 
in religious matters, a policy which aroused fierce antagonism in 
a Catholic Italy, careless of the problems of Imperial statesman- 
ship. Finally, the same decentralizing tendencies which for the 


past three centuries had been concomitants, if not causes, of the 
break-up of the Roman Empire were now accentuated in Italy 
by the needs of the time, which placed military considerations 
in the forefront. Under the stress of the invasions and of the 
economic ruin which they produced the old city life, and with it 
the middle-classes, had gone under. The great machine forged 
by Diocletian and Constantine had confined the lower classes 
in corporations, working for the service of the State. The upper 
class had ended by controlling the machine for themselves, and* 
the bankruptcy of the State left them yet more powerful. Great 
landlords took over the local jurisdiction and tax-collection. 
They became responsible for the coloni on their estates. When 
Italy became an armed camp, and every citizen a militiaman, 
the military organization fell naturally into the hands of these 
nobles. The landowner became the leader of his retainers, as 
the tribune was the leader of the town contingents. And when 
the soldier class, owing to lack of Byzantine reinforcements, 
became predominantly Italian, local patriotism was bound to 
develop. The process was completed by the gradual identification 
of the Byzantine officials with the Italian aristocracy, since the 
former endeavoured to add to their powers by acquiring estates 
in Italy, and the latter, by holding Byzantine titles and executive 
offices, secured official standing and social distinction. Thus with 
the waning of the central power arises a feudal system, replacing 
the Imperial machinery by a number of local dominations. 

The remaining functions of the central government were filled 
by the Church, the growth of whose temporal power was the last 
great factor in the formation of medieval Italy before Charle- 
magne. The Theodosian Code, and more recently the Pragmatic 
Sanction, had given to the ecclesiastical hierarchy not only 
special privileges but also a large measure of political power, 
especially in the sphere of municipal government. The tribune 
and the bishop now shared most of the rights and duties of the 
old municipal officials; and the power of the Church was further 
increased by her status as the largest landholder in Italy. In 
many of the towns it was the bishop who controlled the city-gates 
and saw to the proper garrisoning of the walls, as well as providing 


for the urban water-supply and other services. Hospitals and 
charitable offices had long been the care of the Church; and even 
in matters of jurisdiction and taxation she had been able, by her 
superior organization and her moral prestige, to secure for her- 
self a definite standing in the Imperial system of government. 

The increasing power of the Papacy is shown by the growth of 
the estates of the Church, which not only assured the revenues 
of the See of Rome, but also provided a means of exerting moral 
and material influence throughout Italy. Since the time of Con- 
stantine the Church had been legally empowered to hold pro- 
perty, and this property had shown continuous increase owing 
to the legacies of wealthy Christians and the donations of Roman 
nobles. A further cause was the working of the universal tendency 
of the smaller landowners to place themselves under the protec- 
tion of a powerful landlord, freeholders often becoming mere 
life tenants in return for the advantages of security. 

The letters of Gregory the Great, written at the close of the 
sixth century, provide valuable information concerning Rome's 
efficient and detailed management of her various 'patrimonies'; 
they serve also to show the part played by Gregory himself in 
developing the material resources of the Church. In his instruc- 
tions to the 'rectors', ecclesiastical officials who combined the 
duties of bailiffs, magistrates, and poor relief officers in their 
several districts, attention is paid to the minutest details of stock- 
farming, leasing, slave-holding, and all the matters which con- 
cerned a landlord. Saddles are supplied from Campania, and 
wooden beams from Bruttium, for the use of the Roman Church. 
From Sicily, where lay the richest and most extensive of the 
patrimonies, came large contributions of corn, which secured the 
provisioning of Rome herself a symbol of the replacement of 
Imperial functions by ecclesiastical activity in the former capital 
of the Empire. The vast revenues obtained in this way were 
applied to all manner of uses ransoming of prisoners, relief of 
famine, maintenance of hospitals, support of various churches 
which had suffered by Lombard ravages. Douceurs finally, on a 
princely scale, seem to have been given to the various Byzantine 
officials whose co-operation was found necessary, apart from the 
funds employed in more indirect diplomacy. An interesting light 


is thrown on these relations of Gregory with the Imperial admini- 
stration. His letters are full of accusations, couched in the plainest 
terms, of rapacity and injustice. It is clear, moreover, that he 
speaks as one having authority, and in the full expectation that 
his warnings will not go unheeded. Preceded and followed by 
obscurer pontiffs, Gregory holds already, in some degree, the 
position which the Papacy was destined to occupy in later cen- 
turies. Head of a strong central organization, unquestioned 
arbiter of justice, armed with the Keys of Peter and the old 
majesty of Rome, he is an almost superhuman figure, beside 
whom, in the eyes of the suffering population of Italy, the 
Emperor is but a far-off potentate, and the Exarch merely an 
ineffectual general or an unjust governor. 

It must, however, be emphasized that this power lay rather in 
the personal prestige and moral authority of Gregory than in the 
material force at his command. To meet the many-sided opposi- 
tion to the claims of the Roman See, untiring diplomacy and 
careful combinations were necessary. Even within the confines 
* of Italy and Istria, the great archbishops of the North Milan, 
Aquileia, and Ravenna refused to accept the domination of 
Rome, and though the schism was eventually headed, their inde- 
pendent attitude was maintained, not without secret encourage- 
ment from Byzantium, which welcomed such checks on the 
undue growth of Papal influence. 

But Gregory's aims were wider than the boundaries of Italy. 
In the functionaries whom he appointed to superintend the 
Church estates, in Italy and elsewhere, he had ready to hand a 
corps of diplomatic and intelligence officers, through whose 
agency he was able to establish contact with all the governing 
forces of the West, lay or ecclesiastical. He did not hesitate to 
invite (with incomplete success) the aid of the Imperial power in 
reducing Illyrian bishops to obedience, in repressing Donatists 
and pagans in the African exarchate. In Spain, where the Visi- 
goth kingdom had recently become Catholic, Gregory lost no 
time in entering into close relations with the royal house as well 
as with the hierarchy of the new Church. In France a deter- 
mined though fruitless effort was made to exercise, through the 
Papal Legate at Aries, that authority over the national Church 


to which the Roman bishops had long laid claim. The corre- 
spondence of Gregory with various Frankish sovereigns, in 
particular the notorious Brunhilda, urges the suppression of 
simony and other abuses in the Church, and proves his intimate 
acquaintance with the conditions prevailing in the various 
dioceses, as well as with the course of political events. The Papal 
claims were received with respect rather than admission, for the 
Merovings were not inclined to surrender the advantages of 
ecclesiastical control; but the personal influence of Gregory was 
recognized throughout France, and a still further extension of 
his activities is shown in Augustine's mission to England, which 
was destined to have Such important consequences. 

Meanwhile, the primacy of the Roman See was stubbornly 
maintained against Eastern encroachments, a bitter controversy 
being carried on with the bishop of Constantinople, who claimed, 
as Metropolitan of the capital of the Empire, the tide of Oecu- 
menical (or 'universal') Patriarch. Relations with Byzantium 
were strained still further by the diverging theories of Papacy 
and Empire. To Gregory, the Pope was above the Exarch, the 
Church above the State; to the successors of Justinian, on the 
other hand, the Italian province, like other parts of the Empire, 
was subject to the Emperor and his subordinates, for It is not the 
State which is within the Church, but the Church which is within 
the State 5 . To Gregory, convinced that the sole path to Heaven 
lay, for those called thereto, through priesthood or monastery, 
the decree of the Emperor Maurice, forbidding ordination or the 
cloister to his civil servants or soldiers, became a crime which 
would have to be answered for at the terrible Judgement of the 
Last Day. A Byzantine bishop, closer to the Eastern frontier and 
consequently more aware of the desperate peril of the Empire and 
its need of every possible; recruit if civilization itself were to be 
saved from destruction, would perhaps have been more under- 
standing than Gregory. As it was, relations between Rome and 
Constantinople were practically broken off at one period; and 
the paean of rejoicing with which Gregory greeted the assassina- 
tion of Maurice shows the depth of his conviction that the interests 
of the Church had been gravely menaced by the policy of the 
dead Emperor. No thoughts, however, of a possible separation 


from Byzantium can have entered his mind, and indeed the Italian 
situation forbade it. The enemy was at the gate; and though he 
underestimated the difficulties that confronted the Exarch, 
Gregory fully recognized the value of his protection, and the 
necessity for co-operation in dealing with the Lombards though 
even here hints of a separate policy foreshadow the future course 
of Papal diplomacy. 

The character of Gregory was admirably fitted to deal with 
the peculiar situation. By birth a Roman noble, he had filled 
the office of Prefect of the City before entering a Benedictine 
monastery. In his subsequent career as Papal Legate at Con- 
stantinople he had enjoyed opportunities of observing the Im- 
perial diplomacy at first hand, in that city which was still the 
centre of European politics. Nothing is more marked in Gregory's 
activities than the clear-sighted realism with which he interprets 
the current of affairs both in the Empire and in the barbarian 
kingdoms, and even diverts it on occasion to the service of the 
Church. Succeeding to the Papacy at a time when all Italy was 
in utter confusion and distress, he found himself at the head of 
the only stable institution in a changing world. His surroundings 
reinforced the teaching of his legal and administrative training; 
only by material means, in such an age, could the Church per- 
form fully its work of spiritual salvation. Stress is accordingly 
laid on the practical doctrines of penitence and purgatory, on the 
atoning power of benefactions to the Church. Unworthy instru- 
ments Brunhilda in France, Phocas at Byzantium, stained by 
many and notorious crimes are nevertheless hailed as champions 
of the Church, for the civil power lies in their hands, and only 
through them can justice be enforced. Gregory's realism shows 
itself also in his disregard of literary style, of classical education, 
even of orthography. He frowns upon any extraneous studies 
that may hinder the interest of, or create a spirit critical towards, 
a Church whose unquestioning obedience constitutes its true 
strength. Gregory openly professed ignorance of Greek; his 
acquaintance with Church history is curiously slight, and his 
most characteristic production is his Commentary on the Book 
of Job, with its fantastic interpretations and strained allegorical 
conceits. It is sufficient evidence of the decline in cultural 


standards which had taken place since the days of Boethius and 
Cassiodorus that the medieval reputation of Gregory, apart from 
his Pastoral Rule, rests mainly on his dogmatic learning. 

But we are still on the threshold of the Middle Ages. Gregory 
is the last great personality of the transition period in the West. 
There is little indication that he realized the new paths which the 
Papacy was destined to tread. It was sufficient for him to deal 
with each emergency as it arose, to preserve the Catholic faith 
from compromise or error, to protect the suffering population of 
Italy, and, above all, to maintain intact the powers and privileges 
of the Bishop of Rome. He is a Janus-like figure. One aspect 
foreshadows (at least, to later eyes) the Papal domination of the 
West, the temporal power of the Church, the peculiar blend of 
legalism and mystic doctrine which characterizes medieval 
thought. The other aspect shows us the greatest of those Roman 
nobles turned bishop, who, in Gaul, Africa,, or Italy, through the 
wreckage of the Empire, led their retainers in a desperate fight 
against the swamping deluge of barbarian invasion, owing what 
success they gained less to the material forces at their command 
than to the unwilling respect accorded by their enemies to 
strength and nobility of character, and to the glamour of an 
ancient civilization. 

As his epitaph proclaims him, Gregory is 'God's Consul' a 
Roman statesman, last of his line. 

Justinian bequeathed to his successors an Empire burdened 
with debt, distracted by religious controversy, extortionately 
governed by a bureaucracy more corrupt than ever,- and inade- 
quately protected by a dwindling army against the new dangers 
that threatened its frontiers. To make matters worse Justin II 
had taken over, with this damnosa hereditas, an equal, if not in- 
creased, share of the imperialist ideas which had actuated 
Justinian. Insolent demands on Avars and Persians, reinforced 
by no military or financial strength, ended only in ignominious 
withdrawals, or worse, in the outbreak of ruinous wars. In spite 
of Chosroes's desire for peace, Justin provoked hostilities with the 
Persian Empire (a casus belli was never wanting on the long 
frontier) , and temporary success for the Roman arms was speedily 


followed by the disastrous fall of Dara (573), one of. the chief 
defences of the Mesopotamian line. Justin's megalomania now 
issued in madness; Tiberius, an able general, became his suc- 
cessor, and a policy more suited to the needs of the situation was 

Fully realizing the critical position of the Empire, Tiberius 
was prepared to concede lands to the Avars in the Danube region, 
taking care only to retain Sirmium, the essential point. But things 
had gone too far, and shortly before his death the great fortress 
was surrendered to the Chagan of the Avars, while a flood of 
Slav invaders poured resistlessly into Northern Greece. The 
action taken by Tiberius had anticipated the future course of 
events. Byzantium, separated from Western Europe by a solid 
barbarian block, must concentrate henceforward upon her 
Asiatic provinces, where a definite policy of conciliation in re- 
ligious matters and alleviation of fiscal hardships was laid down 
for the reassurance of her wavering subjects. Meanwhile, despite 
every effort made to terminate hostilities, the war with Persia 
dragged on, ruinous but inconclusive, into the reign of Maurice, 
who succeeded Tiberius in 582 . A lucky chance to end it occurred 
in 591, when a new Persian ruler, placed in power by a palace 
revolution, was forced to seek Roman aid to maintain himself 
upon the throne. Peace was the price exacted by Maurice, and 
a general westward movement of the Byzantine troops was at 
once set onfoot, with a view to restoring the Danube frontier. The 
tide seemed to have turned in favour of the Empire; but another 
reversal of fortune was destined to plunge it immediately into 
the lowest depths. Anxious to follow up his success against the 
Avars, Maurice refused to allow his troops to return tothe capital 
for winter quarters. A mutiny broke out on the Danube. Phocas, 
an uneducated centurion, was proclaimed Emperor, and the 
rebels marched upon Constantinople. Maurice's stern measures 
had made him generally unpopular, and Phocas found no diffi- 
culty in entering the city. His coronation was followed by a 
general massacre of the former reigning house. 

The strong hand of Maurice was now removed, and under the 
purposeless rule of his successor it seemed that chaos was come 
again. The circus-parties of the great cities were at each others' 

4H5 w 


throats; persecution of Monophysites and Jews, expressly ordered 
by Phocas, was rapidly alienating the Eastern provinces, while 
Persian armies steadily advanced along the whole frontier-line 
from Armenia to Palestine. In 608 they were at Chalcedon, 
facing Constantinople across the narrow strip of sea. Plague 
raged in the capital, and shortage of food added to the miseries 
of the inhabitants. Even the Greens, the Emperor's own party, 
taunted him in the Circus and resisted his officers, in consequence 
of which they were deprived of political rights. 

Salvation was to come from an unexpected quarter. Africa, 
at this time perhaps the most flourishing of the Imperial posses- 
sions, was governed by Heraclius, a brilliant and successful 
veteran commander. Disaffected nobles at Constantinople had 
entered into correspondence with him, and he finally consented 
to dispatch an expedition to place his son, another Heraclius, on 
the Imperial throne. In 610 the fleet sailed from Carthage, and 
the fresh spirit of enterprise, the battlemented ships, the picture 
of the Virgin, 'not made with hands', which the leader carried at 
his masthead, bring us into a new atmosphere. Medieval Byzan- 
tium is before us. The city on the Bosporus is no longer the true 
centre of the Mediterranean world. Her territory is narrowed 
down to the surrounding districts of Asia Minor, Thrace, and 
Macedonia. Spain has driven out the Imperial garrisons. Byzan- 
tine power in Italy steadily diminishes in face of the development 
of Papal and Lombard organization. After 604 no Roman 
troops are found in Dalmatia. Slav invasions have driven a 
wedge between East and West, and the rift grows continually 
wider. Gradually the Balkan States are coming into being. The 
Empire now looks eastwards, and its forces are concentrated on 
the Persian front. 

Heraclius encountered few obstacles in overthrowing Phocas, 
the hated tyrant, whose death immediately followed his down- 
fall. But this was only the beginning of his task. Twelve years 
were to elapse before the Empire was sufficiently restored to be 
able to undertake aggressive operations of any size against its 
Eastern enemies. Order and discipline had to be re-established 
in the armies; the insolence of the nobles and the turbulence of 


the factions must be abated, the financial resources of the State 
must be repaired, and the religious conflicts of the provinces 
appeased, before Heraclius could deliver Constantinople from 
the twofold menace of Avars and Persians, and restore to the 
Empire its lost provinces. In the meantime the Persian advance 
continued. By 614 Damascus had fallen; Jerusalem itself was 
captured soon afterwards, and the True Cross, the holiest relic 
of Christianity, carried off to Persia. Egypt now became for ten 
years a Persian province, and her invaluable resources of food- 
stuffs and revenue were lost to Byzantium. Worse still was to 
come, for the Persian forces advanced again through Asia Minor, 
and pitched their camp at Chalcedon, facing the capital across 
the waters of the Bosporus, while simultaneously on the land- 
ward side the Avars, descending in force, ravaged the northern 
suburbs. In despair, Heraclius actually thought for a moment of 
transplanting the seat of Empire to Carthage, in order to make 
a fresh start in a new environment, where precedent carried no 
weight. This remarkable plan was not realized, but its concep- 
tion indicates the originality of its author, an originality that 
marks the solution which he ultimately found. 

By 622 much had been achieved. Careful appointments to 
important posts had surrounded the Emperor with members of 
his own family or trusted dependants. Economy in administra- 
tion and reorganization of the available troops had restored the 
Imperial machine to working order. Religious discord presented 
a more obstinate problem. Mere tolerance was not enough, since 
in this age even tolerance had to be imposed by force. A formula 
of compromise was found to patch up the differences of Catholics 
and Monophysites, but the long-continued efforts of Heraclius 
to secure its acceptance met with repeated failure. 

In the capital, however, all were of one mind in face of the 
common peril, and the forthcoming campaign against Persia 
began to take on the aspect of a crusade. For nearly a century 
this point of view had been gaining ground; the wars of Byzan- 
tium were coming to be regarded as holy wars, undertaken in 
defence of the Christian faith, whose existence was indissolubly 
bound up with that of the Roman Empire. The strange genius 
of Heraclius sharpened the religious consciousness of his subjects; 


Church and State were at one in furthering the great enterprise. 
Sergius, the Patriarch, allowed Church money to be borrowed 
to finance the operations. Sacred vessels of gold and silver were 
melted down to provide additional funds. Blues and Greens 
were reconciled for the nonce, and even the free distribution of 
bread the prerogative of the capital since the days of the 
Gracchi was able to be suspended without serious disturbance. 
The strategy of Heraclius was bold in the extreme. Constan- 
tinople was menaced on two sides. He resolved to buy the Avars 
off, while he concentrated his attacks on Persia. Further, instead 
of attempting to regain the lost provinces of Syria and Egypt, he 
decided to strike at the very heart of Persia, and to lead south- 
wards into the Tigris valley all the Christian peoples of Armenia 
and Trans-Caucasia. In less than six years (622-8) he had ac- 
complished his daring project. In the first campaign (622-3) the 
chief object was the freeing of Asia Minor. Heraclius landed at 
Issus, near the e Cilician Gates' which form the entrance from 
Syria into Asia Minor. Advancing into Cappadocia and Pontus 
he drew off the Persian troops from their threatening position at 
Chalcedon, and defeated them in a decisive battle. The next 
two years (623-5) saw a further advance. Heraclius occupied 
Armenia, and busied himself with recruiting the Colchian and 
Iberian tribes. Successful raids were made into the northern 
districts of Media, but the Persian armies, in spite of repeated 
reverses, were still able to prevent a definite invasion. 

The year 626 was the turning-point of the war. Chosroes 
determined to put forth all his strength to crush this dangerous 
adversary. One army was to hold Heraclius, another was to 
advance on Chalcedon and attack the capital. Meanwhile the 
Chagan of the Avars had collected an enormous host, and was 
preparing to invest Byzantium simultaneously from the north. 
There had been loose alliances on former occasions between the 
European and Asiatic foes of the Empire; but this was the first 
example of a strictly co-ordinated effort, and the double menace 
was overwhelming. With sublime courage Heraclius held to 
his plan. Part of his forces was dispatched to Constantinople, 
where Bonus the Patrician and Sergius the Patriarch were placed 
in charge of the defence. Another part was to oppose the Persian 


containing force, while Heraclius himself held Armenia, and pro- 
ceeded with his preparations for an attack on Persian territory. 
All through July the siege of Byzantium continued. Each day 
saw some fresh attack upon the walls, while Slavonic vessels in 
the harbour threatened the sea defences. Filled with religious 
enthusiasm the inhabitants put up a desperate resistance. A 
concerted attack was repulsed with heavy losses; the plan having 
been discovered beforehand, many of the Slavs were trapped by 
Roman ships, and the Avars, panic-stricken at the disaster to 
their forces, retired from the siege. Meanwhile the other Persian 
army had been defeated, and Heraclius himself was nearing the 
end of his long preparations. Towards the close of the next year 
the final blow was struck. Heraclius descended into the Tigris 
valley, routed the last Persian army, which fled southwards in 
disorder, and seized for himself the residence of Chosroes, seventy 
miles north of the capital. Persian resistance was at an end. The 
armies revolted, and Chosroes was deposed, and put to death 
with lingering tortures. His son made peace with Heraclius, and 
the Persian Wars of the Roman Empire were over for good and 
all. By the terms of the agreement Rome regained all her lost 
provinces, and the prisoners in Persian hands were restored to 
her. The most striking symbol of victory was the return of the 
True Cross, which figured largely in the joyful pageantry which 
greeted Heraclius on his return to Constantinople. Old and new 
persisted side by side in this closing ceremony of a passing world. 
The triumph of the Roman Imperator, whom his people saluted 
by the name of Scipio, found its conclusion in the cathedral of 
St. Sophia, where the Patriarch raised high the sacred relic of the 
Rood to bless the Christian Emperor, Head of the Church and 
Defender of the Holy City. 

The brilliant cerem6nial was the celebration of a real and 
startling revival of the fortunes and prestige of Rome. On north 
and west the Avar domination steadily declined after its check 
before the walls of Byzantium. Slavs and Bulgars revolted from 
its hegemony, and the next few years witnessed the foundation of 
the first Slavonic power in Moravia, speedily followed by the 
establishment in Dalmatia of an independent Croat principality. 
In the East the Persian Empire, hereditary foe of Rome, had 


received the heaviest blow ever dealt it by a Roman Emperor. All 
its recent acquisitions had been torn away, and permanent civil 
war was now implanted in its territory. Once more the Mediter- 
ranean civilization had claimed for itself the populations of Asia 
Minor, Syria, and Egypt. The final chapter of Graeco-Roman 
history had been written. 

It was actually the last triumph of the ancient world. Rome 
and Persia, the age-long combatants, had destroyed each other 
in a final death-grapple. Their weakened and rebellious pro- 
vinces lay open to the onslaught of Islam, which in a few years 
was destined to break forth from the Arabian deserts . Behind the 
barrier of the Balkan states, now rapidly coalescing, Western 
Europe was assuming new forms. The growth of feudalism in 
Italy and France can already be discerned, and signs are not 
wanting of the future expansion of the Papal power. The mis- 
sionaries of Rome have carried her message to the far West, and 
England is slowly becoming Christian. Out of the chaos of 
invasion, the medieval world of Europe is beginning to take form 
and substance. 



rnpiHE beginnings of Islam are made more difficult of compre- 
i hension not only by the obscurity which surrounds the birth 
of any religion, but also by its later developments, which tend to 
transform the primitive characteristics, and even sometimes to 
replace them by opposite qualities. Islam, in its earliest stages, 
was a personal faith; Islam to-day, as a world-force, is a faith and 
culture uniting the most diverse peoples; Islam as a conquering, 
nationalist principle is the connecting link between the two. In 
summary outline, then, three aspects of Islam may be distin- 
guished the Faith, the Conquest, and the Culture and it is 
convenient, if not strictly accurate, to label by these names three 
phases in its historical development. 

In the case of all three, it was inevitable that misconceptions 
should exist in the current view taken of them. The 'paynim 
followers of Mahound' still suffer from their medieval reputation, 
and are seen through the eyes of a crusading Europe. Only in 
recent years has intensive criticism sought to discover what facts 
may lie embedded in the mass of legend and tradition which is 
virtually all that remains, in Christian or Moslem sources, of the 
earlier history of the movement. It used at one time to be thought 
that the Faith of Islam was a new Faith, an original Arabian 
religion. It is now certain that the Faith was not new, neither 
was it Arabian. Arabia, it is true, was its cradle, and Arab cults 
and social habits imposed certain limitations upon its outlook, 
and influenced its ritual; but the creed is actually the offspring 
of Judaism and Christianity, with a later admixture of Zoroas- 
trianism. It was not new, but rather the assertion of continued 
revelation to the Peoples of the Book; Abraham, Moses, Jesus, 
Mahomet the line of prophets is unbroken. The teaching of 
Islam may, in one sense, be regarded as a re-emphasis of the 
Semitic elements in Christianity, which had become submerged 


by Hellenistic influences. 1 The Conquest of Islam, moreover, 
can no longer wear the aspect of a fierce crusade of fanatical and 
visionary warriors, bearing the sword in one hand, the Koran 
in the other, intent on forcible conversion of the unbelievers. It 
was in reality a nationalist movement, caused largely by food- 
shortage, 2 and led by a sternly realist aristocracy of military 
adventurers, in whose view the conversion of the subject races 
was politically inexpedient. Finally, the Culture of Islam was 
not, as is often supposed, an Asiatic civilization, irreconcilably 
opposed to that of Europe. It was, on the contrary, a product of 
the same elements as those which formed the background of 
early Christian thought, the union, namely, of Hellenistic 
and Semitic culture which pervaded the Near East; and this 
common basis accounts largely for the extensive influence exer- 
cised by Islam upon the medieval culture of Europe. The 
religious hostility of Christian and Moslem has obscured their 
common origin, their co-heirship in the legacy which the con- 
quests of Alexander bequeathed to mankind; but this community 
can, none the less, be traced throughout the history of Islam, 
although with the spread of the faith into Asiatic regions, and 
the shifting of the capital from Syria to Iraq, Oriental charac- 
teristics become more prominent. Let us now see how these 
apparent paradoxes can be explained. 

The sudden movement which in the seventh century A.D. 
launched upon the world a conquering Arab nation is one of 
the surprises of history. Arabia is a country peculiarly ill-suited 
to unified control, as Rome and Persia, Turkey and Great Britain 
have, each in its turn, had good reason to remember. By far 
the greater portion of its territory is desert land, patrolled by 
Bedouin nomads, stubbornly individual by nature and training, 
acknowledging no bond' or loyalty outside the tribe, or in some 

1 In the eyes of medieval writers, Islam was not a pagan religion but a 
Christian heresy. Thus John Damascene in the eighth century compares it with 
previous heretical movements, and Dante (Inf. xxxviii. 31-6) regards Mahomet 
as a heretic, seminaior di scandalo e di scisma. (Cf. A. Vasiliev, Histoire de Byzance 9 vol. i, 
P- 274-) 

2 Whether or no Caelani's theory of a steady process of inaridimento> or desicca- 
tion, in the Arabian peninsula be accepted, the importance of the economic factor 
among the causes of the Arab migrations cannot be overlooked. 


cases the family. 1 A striking contrast to his wandering brethren 
is the sedentary Arab of the fertile fringes, accustomed to an 
urban life, engaged in commerce or agriculture, maintaining 
regular contact with civilized nations, the middleman of com- 
merce on the great trade-routes between East and West. Yet 
a nationalist point of view is hardly to be expected here. In the 
extreme south-west, the population of the Yemen, profiting by 
the Red Sea trade, had attained a certain unity, as their ruins 
and inscriptions attest, under the rule of the Sabaean kings. But 
Abyssinian invasion, a century before, 2 had destroyed their 
political importance, though it could not alter the conditions 
which gave them so large a share in the traffic of the Far East. In 
the north, Rome and Persia had found it worth their while, as 
great powers have done in more recent times, to encourage a 
settled hegemony among the wandering tribes of Transjordania 
and the desert parts that stretch from Palestine to the Euphrates. 
The Ghassanid suzerainty, on the Syrian borders, was supported 
by Rome, while the prosperous kingdom of Hira, the trading 
centre of the lower Euphrates, was used by Persia as a buffer 
state. Both vassal kingdoms, however, had ceased to exist shortly 
before this time. On the west, the Arabs of the Hedjaz, though 
not politically united, had adopted settled conditions of life. 
Agriculture was practised in the northern part, and the settle- 
ment of Yathrib, known subsequently as Medina (Madznat an- 
Nabl\ City of the Prophet), possessed a flourishing date-palm 
industry, and a considerable population of Jewish and Arab 
cultivators. Two hundred miles farther south on the great 
caravan route which passed up the shore of the Red Sea lay the 
town of Mecca, which owed its prosperity entirely to commerce. 
Its merchants provided the markets of Syria and the West not 
only with the incense and aromatic woods of South Arabia, but 
also with commodities from India and Further Asia which the 
hostility between Rome and Persia had prevented from taking 
the shorter Euphrates route. It was also a religious centre, for 
here was the Kaaba, with its mysterious black stone which drew 
pilgrims from all parts. 

1 *I and my brother go against my cousin, and I and my cousin against the 
stranger.' Arab proverb. 2 Seep. 117. 


Religion in Arabia was no more organized than politics; local 
shrines, sacred pillars and enclosures, hereditary ritual, and a 
large number of primitive and ill-defined deities were its con- 
stituent elements. The Jewish and Christian communities in the 
coastal districts had introduced their faiths, often in a debased 
or heretical form; but the bulk of the population remained 
attached to their ancient practices, which were probably, for the 
most part, on the level of the baetyl- worship of early Crete or 
Palestine. Such cults survived more by traditional usage than 
from genuine religious feeling; no attempt at theology was made, 
though a certain movement towards monotheism seems to have 
arisen, which may have influenced Mahomet in early life. Mecca 
was perhaps the most important of all the tribal sanctuaries. 
It was surrounded by a sacred territory, and the annual Hajj, the 
pilgrimage and festival which centred there, increased its prestige 
and contributed also to its commercial prosperity. 

Mahomet was born at Mecca about A.D. 570. He was a 
member of the trading community, and by the age of thirty seems 
to have become reasonably affluent. It is impossible to determine 
the stages of his religious evolution, nor can we draw from the 
sources available to us a convincing account of his character. 
Many of the qualities attributed to Mahomet, whether attractive 
or the reverse, appear to belong to a generalized Trophet' a 
type familiar to the East rather than to an individual. The 
'Mecca period', during which his secret propaganda slowly 
gathered round him a band of devotees, is shrouded in obscurity. 
The main subjects of his thought were bound to arouse opposition 
among the materialist and conservative merchants of Mecca, 
among whom ancient custom and tribal morality reigned 
supreme. His doctrine of the Unity of God met with no challefige 
or resistance, but the denial of the efficacy of local deities 
as intercessors, the emphasis laid on the universal duties of 
charity and pity, and, above all, on the imminence of the Last 
Judgement, which Mahomet preached with apocalyptic fury, 
were bound to be held suspect and subversive by respectable 
members of society. Under their scornful criticism, his wild 
utterances and confused thought were forced to justify them- 
selves by argument, and his principles, borrowed largely from 


half-understood scraps of Christian and Jewish legends, were 
fortified by examples and analogies, drawn chiefly from the 
Scriptures. Such reasoning deepened the gulf that separated 
him from his ancestral worship, and he began to denounce its 
polytheism and idolatry, though the cult of the Kaaba was, by 
a true political insight, allowed subsequently to form an essential 
part of the new religion. 

The turning-point was reached in 622, the date of the Hegira 
or migration, when Mahomet forsook his native city and turned 
to the more congenial surroundings of Medina. As his following 
grew, the necessity for laws and regulations became evident, and 
the new political importance of Mahomet is reflected in the series 
of 'revelations' embodying a civil and penal code and a number 
of ritual observances. In spite of opposition from the Jewish 
population, he succeeded before long in dominating the com- 
munity, and attaching to himself a large body of believers who 
had, as the name Islam implies, 'submitted themselves to the 
will of Allah 5 , and therefore to his Prophet. But their economic 
needs had next to be supplied, and a momentous step was taken 
when Mahomet determined to plunder the Meccan caravans, 
justifying his aggressive policy by representing it as God's venge- 
ance on the unbelievers. Nothing was better calculated to per- 
suade the Arabs of the truth of his teaching than the success of 
the Medinese raids, and when not even a powerful coalition of 
the Meccans and other victims had prevailed against them, the 
way was prepared for the triumphal return of the Prophet to 
Mecca (630) . When Mahomet died, in 632, his political authority 
was supreme in the Hedjaz, and the respect accorded to his con- 
quering arms throughout the peninsula was a sign that a new 
centralizing force had arisen in Arabia. God had abundantly 
justified his Prophet. 

It is clear that the origin of Islam was purely religious. The 
urgent need to convert his fellow men was the motive of its 
founder in gaining his earliest adherents. Political elements 
emerge after the migration to Medina. From now on, the guiding 
principle is no longer conversion to the will of Allah, but submis- 
sion to his Prophet. Individual conversions may still have been 
based on religious conviction, but tribe-conversions were political 


in character. The spread of Islam is henceforward closely con- 
nected with the supremacy of Medina. All, however, were 
Moslems, so long as its growth was confined to Arabia. When the 
Arab forces spread over the Near East and northern Africa, the 
home of ancient civilizations, the case was different, and Islam 
is clearly seen as State rather than Religion. So far from enforcing 
their beliefs at the sword's point, the conquerors left their sub- 
jects free to practise their own religions, provided they acknow- 
ledged the Arab supremacy, and paid the necessary tribute. 
Inferior in culture, the Arab had no wish to throw away his only 
advantage, that of belonging to the True Faith, by sharing it 
with others. He preferred to live as a conqueror among a crowd 
of helots. The final stage is reached when this military aristocracy 
can no longer maintain its exclusive existence. The old bureau- 
cratic and commercial system of the conquered states has been 
taken over., and economic motives come into play. Social equal- 
ity between conquerors and conquered is achieved in this way, 
and the common elements of the Christian and Islamic religions 
lessen the obstacles to conversion. This, however, was a gradual 
process; the political conquest of the Near East by the Arabian 
armies is separated from its 'Islamization 9 by a space of two or 
even three hundred years. 


K:LIGION, as we have seen, had made possible the organiza- 
tion of Medina. This organization united the scattered Arabs 
in military conquest; out of this community grew a state. The 
key to the movement is to be found in the character of the imme- 
diate successors of Mahomet. His death was followed by a general 
rising in Arabia against the domination of Medina, and Islam 
seemed destined at this time to succumb before an overwhelming 
reaction of tribal feeling and particularist tendencies. The situa- 
tion was saved by the strong and ruthless generals who led the 
Medinese forces against the peoples of Central Arabia; they, and 
not the contemplatives of Islam, directed the course of the move- 
ment. In swift and merciless campaigns they gained ascendancy 
over the whole peninsula, uniting the warring elements in a loose 
confederation, organized for aggressive action. But before the 
subjection of Arabia was complete, the earliest raids on Syria 
and Iraq, undertaken only with small forces, and with little idea 
of regular conquest, had carried all before them, and the over- 
whelming victories of the Yarmuk and Kadesiya 1 had made it 
possible for the newly formed confederacy to avoid disruption by 
launching its masses upon the neighbouring territories. The 
time was ripe for such an adventure, and the nearest outlet for 
the surging forces was the land that lay immediately north of the 
peninsula, between the empires of Rome and Persia. 

Neither power was in a position to offer organized resistance. 
A period of anarchy in the Sasanid domains had followed the 
triumphs of Heraclius, and when order was finally restored, it 
came too late. The situation of the Roman Empire, apparently 
so brilliant, needs more explanation. Her victories had not only 
rendered Persia a defenceless victim; they had at the same time 
so weakened her own resources that in less than eight years all 
her newly regained territory in Syria and Egypt was lost to her. 
One important reason for this speedy reversal of fortune was the 
decadence of her military power. Long campaigns had spoilt 

1 See p. 151. 


the discipline of her troops, and the aged Heraclius, preoccupied 
by religious controversy, no longer exercised the same authority 
over them. The composition of the army was very mixed. 
Armenians and Trans-Caucasians had been enrolled in great 
numbers, and these unassimilated elements helped to provoke 
disorder, while their leaders, drawn in many cases from the 
feudal nobility of their own countries, proved equally insubordi- 
nate. The military value of the two armies in Syria was gravely 
impaired by these shortcomings, while in Egypt things were even 
worse. Here the defence was entrusted to a landed militia, in- 
experienced in warfare, while the command was shared between 
five equal chiefs, the consequences of which can easily be 
imagined. Serious as the military position was, a more formid- 
able danger was the growing disaffection of the population. A 
determined policy of conciliation, relief from the burden of taxes, 
a tolerant religious attitude, might conceivably have kept Syria 
and Egypt loyal to the Byzantine administration, but the 
measures taken by Heraclius, inevitable though they may have 
been, alienated all sections of the populace. The Imperial 
treasury had been drained by the wars of conquest, and the 
provinces just regained were immediately compelled to take their 
full share in providing revenue. In Syria the situation was com- 
plicated by the mutual hatred of Jews and Christians which 
showed itself in riots and massacres in the big towns. In 634 
orders were given for the forcible baptism of Jews, while the 
refusal of the Monophysites to subscribe to the Imperial formula 
was followed by persecution in Syria and Egypt alike. The result 
is seen in the help given by Jews to the Moslem invaders, and in 
the evidence of contemporary chronicles and lives of Coptic 
monks, where the defeats of the Empire are a subject for rejoicing, 
and a sign of celestial vengeance on the c Chalcedonite heretics'. 
Raids on the Syrian frontier cities had long been a regular 
practice of the border Arabs, and the first attempts of Islam can 
have created no consternation at Byzantium. In 629, well before 
the death of Mahomet, an attack on southern Palestine had been 
beaten off; but five years later a more formidable movement took 
place. Two armies entered Palestine from south and east, and 
inflicted a serious defeat upon the Byzantine forces. Next year 


they were encamped before Damascus. The valiant efforts of 
Heraclius to relieve the city were of no avail, and six months later 
it was forced to open its gates. One after another, the remaining 
towns succumbed to the invader; only Jerusalem, Caesarea, and 
the coastal districts still remained intact. With undaunted 
courage, Heraclius prepared to strike a decisive blow for the 
defence of Syria. With the spring an overwhelming Byzantine 
force, feverishly recruited during the winter, advanced upon 
Syria. Damascus was retaken, and the Arabs retired before 
superior numbers to the farther side of the Yarmuk. A number 
of engagements took place in this region, culminating in a 
terrible Byzantine defeat on the Yarmuk (Aug. 636), which 
sealed the fate of Syria. Heraclius had thrown his whole strength 
into the campaign, and its utter destruction removed all hope 
of meeting the invaders in the field. One by one the fortresses 
surrendered: by 637 the coastal towns,.* Acre, Tyre, Sidon, 
Beirut, were in Arab hands; the next year saw the fall of Jeru- 
salem and Antioch, and when Caesarea, the administrative 
capital, was taken in 640, the country as a whole had already 
accepted the domination of Islam. 

The main force of the invasion had been directed against 
Syria; expeditions to Iraq had been on a small scale, and not 
markedly successful. The victory of the Yarmuk made it possible 
to divert the stream of conquest, after a great battle had taken 
place at Kadesiya (637), which for the future of Persia proved as 
decisive as that of the Yarmuk itself had proved for Syria. The 
Persian troops, utterly routed, fell back in disorder, while the 
king fled precipitately from his capital. The Arab forces advanced 
on Ctesiphon, which was taken and pillaged. Mesopotamia was 
soon overrun, and Moslem bands pushed up the Tigris and 
Euphrates valleys, and penetrated the Armenian mountain- 
ranges. Meanwhile in the south and east the remaining pro- 
vinces of the Persian Empire were steadily reduced to obedience, 
and the last of the Great Kings, fleeing eastward before the 
invader, found a miserable end at Men', on the confines of 
Turkish territory. It is noticeable, however, that the non-Semitic 
culture of Persia proper, with its brilliant and individual tradi- 
tions of over a thousand years, offered a far more stubborn 


resistance than Syria or Iraq. Even after ten years the conquest 
was incomplete, and Persia succeeded in permanently retaining 
her national speech and ways of thought. 

By 650 the Persian Empire was no more, but the impetus of 
its conquerors was not spent. Further Asia was now to feel the 
onrush of the Arabian avalanche. As in the West, its progress 
was made easy by the weakness of the opposing empires. The 
Turks, who had for about a century been masters of Central 
Asia, were in a state of anarchy, and the massive empire of their 
Great Khan had dissolved into a chaos of conflicting tribes. The 
Moslem cavalry now pressed onward into Herat and Balkh 
(651). Stayed for a time by internal dissensions in Iraq, the 
advance began again, and twenty years later, Bokhara and 
Samarkand fell before the victorious onset. Early in the next 
century, a new wave of invasion swept north-eastward to the 
borders of China, where the brilliant T'ang dynasty was at this 
period in full decline. Chinese Turkestan seemed destined to 
succumb: but new forces in China reasserted themselves, and by 
the middle of the eighth century equilibrium had been reached. 
Islam was now firmly entrenched at Balkh and Samarkand: it 
held control of western Turkestan, and commanded the passes 
of the Pamir. Meanwhile its raiding horsemen had already 
penetrated North-West India. The great empires of this region 
Sind, Kashmir, Punjab had been dominated by the Gupta 
rulers further south. Towards the middle of the seventh century, 
however, this hegemony had collapsed, and the full tide of 
Moslem conquest which set in at the beginning of the following 
century carried the Arab standard victoriously through the 
Indus basin, and laid the foundation for the future magnificence 
of the Punjab princes. 

Of more immediate importance to the West was the conquest 
of Egypt, which followed closely on that of Syria. As in other 
cases, the permanent occupation of the territory was preceded 
by a plundering expedition, whose sudden success led to more 
extensive operations. But the campaign was inevitable. Apart 
from its rich cornland and its key-position in commerce, Egypt 
was a standing menace to Moslem Syria, a permanent naval 


base for Byzantine counter-attacks. Alexandria was the chief 
centre of ship-building in the eastern Mediterranean, and during 
the following centuries it was to be the cradle of the growing 
sea-power of Islam. 

The details of the conquest are not clear. Two great figures 
stand out. The leader of Byzantine resistance was the patriarch 
Cyrus, who had also been placed in charge of the civil administra- 
tion. The Moslem forces were commanded by 'Amr, a general 
who had already distinguished himself in Syria. The conquest 
centres round the siege of Babylon, not far from the modern 
Cairo. The complicated policy of Cyrus is difficult to estimate: 
his main purpose appears to have been to save useless bloodshed 
and destruction of property by timely compromise. Babylon, 
after holding out for several months, surrendered in 641. Alex- 
andria, by a treaty of which Cyrus was the author, was handed 
over in the following year, and the subjugation of the rest of 
Egypt was systematically pursued. As we have noticed above, 
the Moslem policy in these early days was to segregate the Arab 
element from the conquered population, and make of them a 
ruling and privileged class. A new capital was therefore chosen, 
near the ancient Babylon, and Old Cairo came into being, as 
the central point of the Arab domination, just as in Iraq the seat 
of government had been placed, not at Ctesiphon, but at Kufa 
(near Hira), to form the citadel of Moslem Arabianism against 
foreign Persian culture. In the same way, the permanent con- 
quest of North Africa may be said to begin with the foundation 
of the great city of Kairawan. 

This further conquest was a slow process, impeded by two 
main factors, Berber resistance and the struggles for the Cali- 
phate. Justinian's great wars had destroyed the Vandals, and 
restored prosperity to the coastal regions, but had failed to check 
the power of the Berber chieftains: whole districts remained in 
their hands, and only continual vigilance along the network of 
military roads and fortresses, supplemented by diplomacy and 
timely subsidies, preserved the cultivated lands from tribal 
razzias. The resources of the Empire had been drained by the 
Persian wars of Heraclius and the attacks of Islam; the capital 
was consequently unable either to help or to control its African 


province, and the governor of Carthage had actually raised the 
standard of revolt. In these conditions, Arab raids, which began 
to be made as early as 642, met with little organized resistance; 
but the permanent occupation of the country was delayed till 
the end of the century. This was due largely to the hostile attitude 
adopted at first towards the Arabs by the Berber chieftains. 
Once the tribesmen had been won over to Islam, the situation 
was changed. The African dominion of Carthage and Rome had 
centred in the coast-towns; that of Islam drew its strength from 
the Moorish inhabitants of the interior; from these masses 
emerged the flood of warriors which poured down on the mari- 
time districts, driving out the remnants of Byzantine rule, and 
spreading across the sea to Spain and Sicily. The Berber element 
is decisive in the Moslem attacks upon Western Europe. 

The other factor which has been mentioned as an obstacle to 
the advance of Islam was of less importance here than in the 
East. The struggles for the Caliphate, however, delayed the con- 
solidation of Egypt, and thus hindered further progress; further, 
the leader of a successful raid was always liable to arouse the 
jealousy of the Caliph and was frequently recalled or superseded 
for this reason. The coast of the Pentapolis, which lay imme- 
diately to the west of Egypt, was secured as early as 642, in order 
to safeguard the left flank against Byzantine attacks; but not till 
670 was the great camp founded at Kairawan, in Tunisia, as the 
base for extended operations in Proconsular Africa. About 
twelve years later, a general rising of the Berbers, who still sided 
with the Byzantine cities, drove the invaders back upon the 
Pentapolis, and the final conquest of North Africa, which took 
place in the early years of the eighth century, was only accom- 
plished when the Berbers of the Aurasian mountains had been 
subdued and conciliated, and the growth of Arab naval power 
had made possible a concerted attack upon the coast towns. 

But the Berber problem remained: subsidies were not enough 
to keep them loyal, and the conquest of Spain, which immediately 
followed, was due to the necessity of providing booty and occu- 
pation for the new allies. The attack on Spain which took place 
in 71 1 appears to have been at its inception one of those summer 


raids which throughout the Middle Ages descended upon the 
coasts and islands of Southern Europe, carrying off women from 
the countryside and jewelled images from the plundered monas- 
teries. But unexpected success awaited the invaders. In their 
march along the southern coast, they encountered and scattered 
the forces of the Visigoths, and a triumphal progress began. The 
unpopularity of the Goths, and the treachery of the Jewish popu- 
lation, seeking to avenge their recent persecution, prepared the 
way. In two months Cordova had surrendered, and some weeks 
later Toledo followed suit. The Visigoth kingdom, weakened by 
dynastic changes and internal dissension, collapsed like a house 
of cards. These swift and surprising successes of the Moslem 
forces were consolidated the next year, when the governor of 
North Africa crossed over into Spain with reinforcements and 
in a series of systematic operations drove the Gothic chivalry 
into the Asturias mountains, and proclaimed from Toledo the 
sovereignty of the Caliph of Damascus. The advance continued 
across the Pyrenees, and in a few years the Arab-Berber troops 
were in possession of the southern French coastline as far as 
Narbonne. From this centre they were destined to harass the 
neighbouring towns, Toulouse, Aries, and Avignon, for the next 
forty years. But the left horn of the encroaching crescent had 
neared its limit. Eudo, Duke of Aquitaine, stoutly defended the 
walls of Toulouse, and the culminating point was reached in the 
great battle of Tours or Poitiers (732), in which Charles Martel 
decisively routed the Saracen forces. This battle has become a 
symbol of the salvation of Western Christendom from the infidel 
terror, and its legendary fame is not unjustified. But in fact the 
force of the invasion was spent, and it is doubtful whether 
any permanent conquest of southern France would have been 
possible. The Arab troops were by this time strongly diluted 
with Berber elements, and the antagonism between the two races, 
which was to show itself more clearly in Spain and Africa, had 
already appeared. The Kingdom of the Asturias, moreover, in 
the north-west corner of Spain, the magnet of all the forces of 
resistance to the invaders, was daily growing in strength, and a 
barrier was thus being placed along the Pyrenees, preventing 
reinforcements from the south. 


A far more formidable menace to European civilization was 
developing at the other end of the Mediterranean. Byzantium 
was the real objective of Islam, and this right wing thrust was 
all the more powerful, since it came from the very heart of the 
new empire. 

In 642 the plundering bands were in Cappadocia, in 646 in 
Phrygia, and in 651 and 653 they penetrated to Angora. In 
Armenia the situation was even more serious; between 646 and 
666 a systematic occupation of the country was undertaken. In 
slow movements, alternated with sudden rushes, the tide was 
creeping towards Byzantium. In 668 it had actually reached 
Chalcedon. Meanwhile the Saracen sea-power had steadily 
developed. Stealing out from the African ports, -the corsair fleets 
ravaged Crete, Lycia, and the Aegean islands, and Cyprus soon 
became an important naval base. As the fleets grew bolder, they 
pressed closer on the capital, and actions took place in ihe 
Hellespont itself. In 673 a determined assault by land and sea was 
made upon Constantinople, repulsed only by the utmost effort, 
and by the efficacy of the terrible e Greek fire 9 . A twenty years' 
breathing-space was granted to the hard-pressed Byzantines, 
owing to civil war in Islam, and for a moment Armenia was 
regained; but in 693 the forward march of the Arabs was re- 
sumed, and again the Bosphorus was threatened. Finally in 717 
came the great siege of Constantinople, and its heroic defence 
by Leo 'the Isaurian', whose brilliant victory set bounds for over 
three hundred years to the progress of Islam. 1 

This may well rank as one of the decisive battles of history. 
When the discomfited invaders turned homewards, after a year- 
long siege which had seen their transports burnt or captured, 
their troops numbed by the bitter weather or ravaged by plague 
and famine, they relinquished their last serious enterprise, 
for many centuries, against the capital of the Roman Empire. 
The reorganization carried out by the Isaurian rulers, which 
strengthened the internal resources of the Byzantine dominions, 
destroyed any possibility of concerted action on a similar scale* 
Henceforward the naval operations in the eastern Mediter- 

1 The advance of Islam began again with the Seljuk Turks after the battle of 
Manzikert (1071). 


ranean were limited to summer raids, until the western Arabs, 
who had become possessed of Sicily and Crete, began to take a 
hand in the game. But it is the crowning glory of Byzantium to 
have stood alone against the full force of Islam, at the moment of 
its greatest strength and unity, the saviour not only of the ancient 
Imperial traditions but of the future of medieval Europe. 



MAHOMET had left no succession schemes, and his death re- 
moved the very mainspring of the movement. All had 
depended on him; the word of God, issuing from the mouth of 
his Prophet, had been paramount. Fierce dissensions at once 
sprang up among his immediate followers, and simultaneously 
the Arabian tribes, still unreconciled to the supremacy of Medina, 
raised the standard of revolt, while in various parts of the 
peninsula arose rival prophets, seeking to emulate the successes 
of Mahomet. As we have seen, the bloody c Ridda s wars, which 
reduced Arabia to obedience, led directly to the foreign conquests 
of Islam. They had, however, another effect, namely the healing 
up of discord, in face of the common peril, among the factions of 
Medina. The venerable and respected Abu Bakr was chosen as 
Caliph, or 'Successor' (of the Prophet), and was succeeded, two 
years later, by Omar, a political genius of the first rank, whose 
skilful direction of the Syrian campaign laid the foundation 
of the Moslem Empire. In 644 he fell by the hand of a Greek 
or Persian assassin, and Othman, a member of the Umayyad 
family, became Caliph. The rivalries of Medina, however, still 
smouldered, and its autocratic power provoked opposition in 
many quarters. A movement of reaction against the central 
government started among the semi-nomadic troops of Kufa 
and Egypt, and was fostered in the name of religion by Othman's 
rivals. Obscure negotiations with the Moslems of Medina re- 
sulted in the murder of Othman by a party of troops from Egypt. 
Ali, the Prophet's son-in-law, who had probably been concerned 
in the movement, imprudently allowed the murderers to invest 
him with the Caliphate, the other claimants having withdrawn 
to Mecca. Since these claimants were supported by Basra, it 
was natural that Ali should be favoured by Kufa, the rival city, 
and the victory of Kufa over Basra secured him the temporary 
control of Iraq. Ali had now, however, to face the army of 
Moawia, governor of Syria; and though the first results were 
inconclusive, the balance of military strength and public opinion 


gradually turned in favour of Moawia. But before a decision 
could be reached^ AH had been assassinated, early in 66 1, by the 
adherents of a third party. His son Husain was proclaimed at 
Kufa, but abdicated in favour of Moawia a few months later. 
The fortunes of the Umayyad dynasty, which was to govern the 
Empire until 750, were henceforward secure. 

Apart from the innovation of hereditary succession, which it 
was no mean achievement to have imposed on the individualist 
Arabs, important changes now began to be made in the system 
of government. 1 

The capital was fixed at Damascus, and the old religious 
authority, emanating from Medina, was replaced by political 
control, which borrowed its machinery from the Byzantine 
administration. Early in the eighth century the power of the 
Umayyads reached its zenith. The supremacy of Syria was 
assured, and powerful viceroys in other parts enforced the rulings 
of the Caliph. The attacks on Byzantium were renewed with 
increased vigour: in the West, Spain was added to the Empire, 
while in the East, Moslem arms penetrated to the Punjab, and 
far into Central Asia. A brilliant court flourished at Damascus, 
poetry and learning revived, and the Umayyad mosque in that 
city, together with the mosque of Omar in Jerusalem, display 
the second flowering, under the stimulus of Arab wealth, of 
Byzantine architectural tradition. 

At this point, however, a decline set in. The history of the 
last Umayyads is a succession of brief reigns, a series of intensive 
feuds and outbreaks of revolt. Opposition to the dynasty arose 
from several sources. The old elective theocracy of Medina had 
never countenanced the ascendancy of the nationalist generals 
and statesmen of Syria, and continual intrigues in this quarter 
had to be encountered. Local feuds developed into a struggle 
between 'North Arabians' and 'South Arabians', which spread 
throughout the whole Empire. Africa and Spain, no less than 
Iraq and Khorasan, were torn by dissension, and even within 
the Umayyad house echoes of the dispute were heard, producing, 
as a result, palace murders and dethronements. The most 
formidable enemies of the regime, however, were the Shiites, 

1 Of. p. 164. 


members of the Shia, or party, of Ali, whose head-quarters lay 
in Iraq. During the brief caliphate of Ali, Kufa had been the 
capital of the Empire, and the memory of those golden days still 
remained, to sharpen the resentment felt against the more 
civilized and powerful Syrians. Gradually the movement took 
on the emotional colours of a religious cult. Ali and his son 
Husain, who had fallen in the cause of the Kufa people, were 
venerated as saints. They were the martyrs of Islam, the son-in- 
law and grandson of the prophet himself, and the depositaries of 
the true faith. Their descendartfs, or certain of them this point 
gave rise to further discord were the only rightful heirs to the 
Caliphate. But it was not from Iraq that the revolution was 
destined to take its birth. Though Persia, as a whole, had proved 
itself loyal to the Umayyads in the time of their ascendancy, and 
still remained, after their downfall, more faithful to their memory 
than any province outside Syria, its north-eastern parts were the 
scene of a Shiite outbreak which changed the whole face of the 
Mahometan world. 

Beginning in Khorasan, a great anti-Syrian movement swept 
westwards, supported by the South Arabians, and dominated by 
Persian influence, whose nominee, Abul Abbas, founder of the 
Abbasid dynasty, was proclaimed Caliph as 'As-Saffah*, the 
Shedder of Blood, and proceeded forthwith to justify his name. 
One by one the members of the Umayyad house were hunted 
down; the only survivor fled westwards into Spain, where he 
succeeded in gaining the supreme power. Meanwhile the ashes 
of former Umayyads were thrown to the winds, their palaces and 
aqueducts ruthlessly demolished. A new age was to begin; such 
was the watchword of the conquerors. 

They were right. The Abbasid victory marks the transforma- 
tion of the Moslem Empire, as will be seen later in connexion with 
the administrative and social spheres. From now on the Arab 
conqueror yields up his exclusive position; the growth of con- 
verts, the exigencies of government and trade, the superior 
numbers and civilization of the conquered peoples have done 
their work. Islam is no longer the religion of the Arabian over- 
lord; it is becoming the force that binds together Moslems of all 
races. And the representative of that force is the Caliph. He is 


no longer, as in Umayyad times, the director of schemes of con- 
quest and exploitation by an imperial race; in spite of the increase 
in system and complexity of the administrative machinery, the 
provinces of the Moslem Empire successively free themselves 
from the political control of the central power, while remaining 
loyal to its religious authority. Spain was the first to go. In 756 
Abdalrahman, last Umayyad survivor, was proclaimed Emir, 
and governed as an independent prince. Africa was not slow to 
follow suit. In 788 Idris ben Abdallah, a descendant of Ali, 
founded in Morocco a similar emirate, that of the Idrisites, with 
Fez as its capital. Here too the religious authority of the Caliph 
was not questioned, but in practice the ruler was independent. 
A more important emirate was centred at Kairawan, in Tunisia. 
Ibrahim ibn Aghlab, about 800, laid the foundations of the 
Aghlabite dynasty, whose naval power dominated the central 
Mediterranean throughout the ninth century. The conquest of 
Sicily, steadily pursued, was accomplished in 902. South Italy 
was continually ravaged, and in 846 Rome itself was the scene 
of one of their daring exploits. By 870 Malta was in their hands, 
the key to Western commerce, while the cities of the Adriatic 
were constantly at the mercy of their raiding corsairs. Not till the 
coming of the Normans in the latter half of the eleventh century 
were the Saracens driven back into Africa. Egypt, however, was 
not finally withdrawn from Abbasid authority until the Fatimid 
conquest in 969, when the revenues which had formerly drained 
into the coffers of Baghdad were diverted to provide for the 
adornment of Cairo, which became during the following cen- 
turies one of the most brilliant capitals of the Moslem world. 

One by one the provinces in East and West assumed indepen- 
dence, and by the tenth century A.D. the Moslem Empire had 
ceased to be a political unity. But a unity of another sort, equally 
significant if less material, prevailed throughout its borders. Not 
for nothing was it that the same call to prayer sounded at the 
same hour from the minarets of Cordova, Kairawan, Cairo, 
Damascus, and Baghdad, that all eyes turned daily towards 
Mecca, and all hearts aspired to go thither on pilgrimage. And 
to this community of faith was added community of language, 
for Arabic was in every country the vehicle of religion and sound 


learning. The prestige and splendour of Baghdad were mani- 
fested by the widespread imitation of its government, customs, 
and architecture; and the immense and unbroken flow of 
commerce, extending by land and sea from farthest Asia to the 
Atlantic, enclosed the varied peoples of Islam in the meshes of 
an opulent and many-sided civilization. 

In the earliest days of Islam, when Mahomet led his followers 
from Medina to plunder the caravans, a simple division of spoils 
was all that was needed in the way of financial organization. This 
principle lasted well into the following stage; for the earlier 
Umayyad Empire was, in effect, based on a system of plunder. 
The conquering Arabs, lodged in great military camps, were 
supported by the tribute exacted from the subject population; 
the surplus revenues accrued to the central treasury at Medina, 
out of which the Caliph dispensed bounty to his more important 

It soon, however, became evident that this primitive plan was 
insufficient for the needs of the Empire. As the faith of Islam 
extended, so the revenue from taxation tended to diminish; for 
only unbelievers were liable to tribute. The difficulty was met 
at first by continuing to exact it from the new converts; but as 
this class grew more influential, its grievances were bound to 
cause trouble, and it proved ultimately one of the chief agents 
in the downfall of the Umayyad house. Gradually the theory of 
a dominant race, holding to ransom huge territories and peoples, 
became untenable. One stage of the process is seen in the com- 
promise by which all landowners, irrespective of creed, paid 
ground-taxes to the treasury, while the poll-tax was reserved 
for the unbelievers, an outward and visible sign of Moslem 

The breakdown of this exclusive system was only one of the 
many changes which marked the advent of the Abbasid dynasty. 
The dominions of Islam had been wrested from two ancient and 
highly developed empires, Rome and Persia. Nothing in the pre- 
vious experience of the desert nomads had prepared them for the 
complicated administration made necessary by their new condi- 
tions . The Byzantine machinery of government, in consequence, 


was taken over by the conquerors in Syria and Egypt, and the 
evidence of recently discovered papyri proves the continuance 
of the Roman fiscal and administrative system in these countries. 
When the capital was shifted to Baghdad, the influence of Persia, 
in its turn, made itself felt upon the central government. The 
new capital lay only thirty miles distant from Ctesiphon, the 
former centre of the Sasanid rulers; and the new dynasty at 
once endeavoured to secure a fusion of Arab and Persian, and 
to maintain an equal balance between them. The change is 
strikingly seen in the altered position of the Caliph. In the days 
of Abu Bakr, immediately after the Prophet's death, the authority 
emanating from Medina had been of a spiritual order: this 
authority had subsequently been transformed by the Umayyad 
statesmen of Damascus into an organized political domination, 
though traces of its Arabic origin still lingered in the patriarchal 
and nationalist character of Umayyad rule. The Abbasid 
Caliphate was, in one sense, a return to the original principles of 
Islam; the movement which brought it into being was largely of 
a religious nature, a reaction against the secular Umayyads, and 
in consequence the new rulers took care to buttress their authority 
with the theories of Medina theologians, theories constructed 
from the text of the Koran, eked out by oral tradition, and smell- 
ing somewhat of the lamp, since for over a century the theocrats 
of the Hedjaz had been alienated from the real practice of Moslem 
administration at Damascus. Mahomet had been absolute in all 
spheres, and so in theory was the Abbasid Caliph. This absolut- 
ism was, however, limited in several directions. The sovereignty 
exercised over the various emirates was, it has been shown, more 
apparent than real, and even in the capital itself the power of the 
Caliphate was often overshadowed by that of the Viziers. 
Weaker Caliphs were content to withdraw from the public gaze 
to the secluded pleasures of the harem, leaving to their officials 
the task of ruling the Empire, and to their Khorasanian body- 
guard the defence of their persons. Leaders of the army also 
acquired political influence, and Caliphs were frequently made 
and unmade by the hands of the military. 

Below the Viziers was a complex series of government depart- 
ments, or Divans, which dealt with the affairs of the Treasury, 


the Chancery, the Army, the Imperial Household, and so forth. 
One of the most important of these was the Divan-al-Barid, or 
State Post, an interesting example of the manner in which the 
Caliphs inherited the traditions of both Rome and Persia. The 
name 'Barid' is derived from the Latin veredus, a post-horse, and 
like the cursus publicus it was a State institution, designed to secure 
centralized control and rapid movements of troops and officials. 
Other features are reminiscent of the old Achaemenid system of 
Persia, described by Herodotus; and like both its forebears, the 
purposes of the Abbasid postal organization included espionage, 
which was exercised on an extensive scale in all classes of society. 
The development of this espionage into one of the main instru- 
ments of government is typical of the Oriental methods of Bagh- 
dad. No official was trusted, and even the Caliph's own family 
was under strict surveillance. The police formed an important 
part of the intelligence service, and their duties included inter- 
ference in the minutest details of daily life, while in every city 
a swarm of local officers, judges, tax-gatherers, and stewards of 
the Crown lands reduced still further the liberty of the subject. 

The change from the nationalist, aristocratic government 
of Damascus to the cosmopolitan despotism of Baghdad only 
accelerated the amalgamation of conquerors and conquered. 
Henceforth all were slaves under one master; but the equalizing 
process had begun in Umayyad times. So long as the Arab, 
limited in numbers and still more in education, retained the 
monopoly of the True Faith, and lived in Spartan exclusiveness, 
fenced off from the common herd in his armed camp, drawing 
his livelihood from the Caliph's bounty, he was able to maintain 
his position of superiority. But these privileges were destined to 
be of short duration. On the one hand, material interest and 
religious indifference swelled the numbers of the non-Arab con- 
verts, and in consequence lessened the revenues from unbelievers; 
on the other, now that the wars of conquest were over, the Arab 
ceased to be a state pensioner, and became landowner, peasant, 
or small tradesman, subject to the economic laws and social dis- 
tinctions of the country in which he found himself. Education 
and intellectual ability were needed, if he was to hold his own; 


for the intricate civilization of Byzantine times continued with 
little change, demanding skilled administrators as before. Even 
in the early days Christians were appointed to positions of trust, 
particularly in matters of finance; and the toleration of non- 
Moslem faiths which was practised under the Umayyads left 
these communities free to prosper materially, provided they paid 
the necessary taxes, which were, on the whole, no heavier than 
those formerly exacted by the Byzantine government. A large 
measure of self-government was granted to the Christians, and 
churches and monasteries flourished; it is significant that these 
centuries were marked by a wave of missionary enterprise on the 
part of the Nestorians, which swept across Asia and even pene- 
trated into China. Fanaticism, it is true, at certain periods gained 
the upper hand; Arab national pride, too, found expression in the 
ordinances forbidding Christians to keep Moslem slaves, denying 
them various legal privileges, and even insisting on a special 
dress. But the official attitude remained generally tolerant, and 
the dwindling of Christian communities was due to other causes 
than persecution. Among the educated classes, much common 
ground was discovered between the two religions, and the 
developments of Moslem theology in Syria and Egypt show the 
influence of Christian thought. Just as in these days attempts are 
made to harmonize modern science and religion, so the philo- 
sophic background of the ancient world, which had been to some 
extent reconciled with Christianity, had now to be invoked to 
explain the tenets of Islam, in order to secure the acceptance of 
thinking men. The unreflecting, meanwhile, saw the finger of 
God in the amazing successes of Arabian armies, and bowed 
before the jfaz'2 accompli. Lastly, the splendour that radiated from 
the capitals of Islam, where a brilliant civilization was shaping 
itself under the impact of old and new forces, exercised a potent 
influence on the imagination. In Spain, for example, the barbar- 
ous Latin of the chroniclers and theologians could not hold its 
own against the attractions of Arabic poetry and literature; even 
among the Christians, a ninth-century writer bitterly complains, 
the beauties of the Arabic tongue are more esteemed than the 
writings of the Fathers. 
The great expansion of trade which followed in the wake of 


the Moslem Empire was one of the chief developments which 
impressed upon it that unity to which allusion has already been 
made. Besides the fact that the industries of Syria and Egypt 
the richest provinces of the Byzantine Empire continued as 
before to produce their glasswork, textiles, and other manu- 
factured articles, special advantages were secured to commerce 
by the new regime. Once settled, the Arab tends naturally to 
engage in trade. The prosperity of the kingdom of Hira was 
based on its great fairs, just as that of Yemen, at the other 
extremity of the peninsula, was due to the Asiatic cargoes passing 
through its port, while the markets and caravans of Mecca con- 
stituted its staple industry. Mahomet himself had been a trader, 
and in the Koran an honourable position is assigned to the 
merchant. The conditions of Moslem social life were therefore 
more favourable to trading enterprise than those of the Graeco- 
Roman world with its contempt of the banausic. And the 
geography of the Arab dominions was specially advantageous 
for this purpose. The feuds of Rome and Persia, which had 
checked the flow of commerce between East and West, were now 
at an end, and a solid block of territory under one ruler stretched 
from the Atlantic coast to the steppes of Central Asia. The Red 
Sea and Persian Gulf were no longer rival, but alternative routes, 
and all the gold and ivory of Central Africa, the spices and per- 
fumes of the Far East, reached Europe only after passing through 
Moslem hands. It is noticeable that the great cities of the Empire 
lie at the intersection of long travel routes. Damascus, situated 
at the point where the caravans from Central Asia approach the 
Mediterranean, received also the merchandise of Egypt, Syria, 
and the Red Sea traffic. Cairo was a mart for the raw products 
of Asia and Africa as well as a manufacturing centre, and from 
Egypt a series of prosperous trading towns along the coast led 
to the capitals of northern Africa and Spain. Basra, on the 
Euphrates, was built soon after the conquest of Persia, to control 
the Persian Gulf and its Eastern trade, but its importance was 
eventually eclipsed by Baghdad. A canal between Tigris and 
Euphrates united the latter city to the overland routes from Asia 
Minor, Syria, and Egypt, while caravans from Central Asia 
descended from the highlands of Persia and Bokhara at its gates. 


More extensive still was the maritime trade. In the stories of 
Sinbad the Sailor, who is represented as having lived in the early 
ninth century under the Abbasid Caliph, Harun-al-Rashid, the 
voyages start always from Baghdad, and many of the incidents 
and places mentioned can be corroborated or identified from 
other sources. Arab itineraries describe the traders in Ceylon, 
Malabar, and the Indian coast towns, and Chinese records prove 
the existence of colonies of Arab traders under the Tang dynasty. 
Some even penetrated as far as Korea. In the west, the ports of 
Egypt and North Africa showed great activity, and their shipping 
linked the cities of the southern Mediterranean shore as far as 
Spain. But little trade was done with France and Italy; the 
Moslems came to these shores as pirates, not merchants. Byzan- 
tium remained the centre of European commerce, and it was not 
until the tenth century that Moslem and Christian met together 
to exchange their wares, and Arabs trod the streets of Pisa and 

The influence of Islamic trade, however, made itself felt far 
beyond the boundaries of the Empire. In the north, Trebizond 
was an important centre, not only for its fair, which attracted 
dealers from all over the Near East, but also because it formed 
the frontier between Greek and Moslem commerce. Textiles, 
metal-work, and other products found their way to Constanti- 
nople by this means, and their influence can be traced in Byzan- 
tine culture. A stream of traffic also passed up the Volga and 
other rivers, and reached Central Russia and Scandinavia 
through the Khazar Kingdom. A large number of Moslem coins, 
mostly from Khorasan and the Eastern parts, have been dis- 
covered as far afield as Germany and the Baltic regions, and their 
provenance and distribution point to a considerable volume of 
trade, reaching its height in the early years of the ninth century, 
between the Asiatic provinces and northern Europe. 

Inside the territory of Islam, commerce was furthered by the 
pilgrimages which were enjoined by its religion, and promoted 
by the Caliphs. Communications were improved by the pro- 
vision of wells and caravanserais, and great fairs were established 
at pilgrim centres. The Arab rulers, as they lost the ideals of their 
Prophet and the simpler manners of their ancestors, took over 


from the older empires which they had superseded the love of 
luxury and display, and surrounded themselves with splendid 
buildings and furniture, thus further increasing the demand for 
various skilled products and exotic wares. 

Parallel with the material civilization of Islam went the 
development of its spiritual culture. Just as the Arab conquerors 
had found it necessary to adapt their primitive customs to the 
more highly developed systems of the subject races, so the 
theologians, faced with conflicting philosophies without and 
divergent tendencies within, began to elucidate the Koran, rear- 
ing upon this slender foundation a vast superstructure of com- 
mentary and exegesis. Inasmuch as they saw in the Koran the 
supreme source of religion, law, and ethics, it was essential to 
reconcile conflicting utterances, to classify and systematize 
various pronouncements, and by the aid of analogy and deduc- 
tion to make the words of the Prophet apply to circumstances 
not envisaged by him. Hence the origin of a large part of the 
brilliant literary output of the Abbasid period can be traced to 
study of the Koran. Even Arabic grammar, according to tradi- 
tion, was first scientifically studied for the purpose of safeguard- 
ing the text; and however this may be, the development of Arabic 
as a literary language is closely connected with the need for 
explanation felt by the adherents of the new religion. In order 
to show the sequence of the Prophet's teaching, research into 
his life and the traditions of his family was made, and this, 
combined with the study of the lives of early heroes of Islam, gave 
a stimulus to the writing of history, which in Moslem hands has 
always retained a strong biographical and anecdotal flavour. In 
the same way, a large legal literature grew up, based primarily 
on the Koran, as the fountain of all authority, but drawn largely 
from Greek and Jewish sources in the civil and religious spheres 
respectively. It was inevitable that this should be so, since the 
legal system had to be fitted into the framework of previously 
existing civilizations, of which Mahomet can have had little 

In dogmatic theology, the same problems soon began to 
exercise Moslem thinkers as had formerly troubled the peace of 

4I4S fi 


the Early Church, Under the influence of Greek philosophy, 
logical reasoning began to be applied to such subjects as the 
Unity and Attributes of God, and the question of Determination 
and Free Will. During the first half of the ninth century this 
challenge to the orthodox upholders of literal tradition came 
to a head in an organized attempt to reconcile reason with 
authority. The official scholasticism won the day, and hence- 
forward the only escape from its aridities was by way of mysticism. 
Philosophy proper followed the same path. A definite attempt 
was made by Avicenna (d. 1037) to reconcile Aristotelean. 
doctrines with Moslem thought, and his work was continued by 
the great school of Spanish thinkers which exercised so potent 
an influence upon medieval Europe. In the East, however, and 
especially in Persia, orthodox Moslem dogma held its own, and 
although Greek metaphysic and psychology played their part, 
the mystical element is predominant in the philosophic systems 
evolved in this region. Translations from the Greek were also 
responsible for the growth of works on medicine, and a great 
school of physicians developed under the Abbasid dynasty. 
Greek models stimulated the production of encyclopaedias, and 
the translations of Greek and Indian speculation in astronomy 
and mathematics led before long to original discoveries by the 
scholars and scientists of Islam, Meanwhile pure literature 
flourished at the Abbasid Court a literature, it is true, rather of 
'escape' than expression, but distinguished by great charm and 
technical virtuosity. Prose blossomed into conceits and subtleties, 
while poetry ranged from elegant love-songs and gay drinking 
staves to the brooding melancholy of mystical verse-writers. 

Moslem Art is equally representative in character, for in its 
development may be seen with convenient clearness the many 
influences which combined to produce a great civilization. It 
is an epitome of the history of Islam in all its aspects. Atfirst sight, 
owing to its rapid flowering, it gives the appearance of a new, 
original style, which from the ninth to the seventeenth centuries 
covered vast stretches of country Spain, North Africa, Egypt, 
the Near East, Persia, Turkestan, northern India with great 
cities, stately mosques, and glittering palaces, all strongly marked 









by homogeneity of structure and ornament, in spite of local 
variations. This appearance, however, is delusive. One must 
go back to the origins to discover that the style is a fusion of old 
elements, an eclecticism born of the peculiar conditions which 
enabled a conquering race to exploit the various techniques and 
traditions of some of the most artistic peoples that the world has 
seen. Apart from the riches and prosperity of the conquered 
lands, and the enormous revenues which the absolute power of 
the caliphs enabled them to spend in satisfaction of their personal 
caprice, the social and political developments of the Empire 
favoured the growth of Moslem art. The existence of a number 
of independent emirates produced a series of brilliant capitals, 
each one consciously rivalling the splendours of Baghdad, while 
dynastic changes and palace revolutions often resulted in the 
creation of new imperial cities. The Oriental character of the 
rulers is shown in their distaste for inherited buildings, then- 
slackness in repair, their ennui ever counselling new places of 
residence. The Moslem inclination towards works of piety and 
public utility was responsible for the construction of schools, 
fountains, baths, hospitals, and caravanserais, as well as more 
strictly religious foundations, such as mosques, seminaries, and 

The expansion of Islam was marked from the first by great 
building activity. Five years after the death of the Prophet, 
Basra on the Lower Euphrates, and Kufa, south of Babylon, 
were founded, to serve as centres of Moslem influence in Mesopo- 
tamia. One of the first consequences of the conquest of Egypt was 
the building of the Mosque of c Amr, named after the victorious 
general, while the so-called 'Mosque of Omar' at Jerusalem, 
and that of Sidi Okba at Kairawan, have a similar origin. The 
Great Mosque of Damascus was reconstructed to enhance the 
splendour of the Umayyads, and the centralizing of the govern- 
ment in that city was accompanied by a flowering of all the arts. 
The Abbasid ascendancy created the glories of Baghdad, and 
magnificent palaces arose during the eighth and ninth centuries, 
most of which were swept away by the Mongolian invasions. All 
the great periods of Moslem Art are linked in like manner to 
political events. The power of the Marinids at Fez, of the 


Fatimites at Cairo, was shown by the adornment of their capitals; 
the dominance, in later centuries, of the Seljuk Turks in Armenia, 
of Timur at Samarkand, or of the Great Moguls in northern 
India is recorded by the buildings they have left behind them, a 
remarkable testimony to the unity and vitality of Moslem Art, in 
its mature stages, and its influence over Asiatic and uncivilized 
conquerors. In Spain, above all, the foundation of the Umayyad 
power ushers in an era of unequalled splendour, which reaches 
its height in the early part of the tenth century. The great 
university of Cordova is thronged with students from all parts 
of the Moslem Empire, while the city itself excites the wonder 
of visitors from Germanyand France. The banks of the Guadal- 
quivir are covered with luxurious villas, and born of the ruler's 
caprice rises the famous Palace of the Flower, a fantastic city of 
delights. Little remains of the architecture of this period, which 
may well have rivalled, if not surpassed, the later triumphs of 
Alcazar and Alhambra, with which, some four centuries later, 
the Moorish potentates enriched Seville and Granada. 

As the rise and fall of dynasties determine the flowering-times 
of Moslem Art, so the social conditions of the Empire, which have 
already been outlined, show themselves in its inner development. 
The Arabs of the pre-Islamic period possessed little architecture, 
and it was thus inevitable that the earlier Moslem structures 
should follow the tradition of the conquered territories. In Syria 
and Egypt Christian basilicas were taken over with little altera- 
tion, and even when new buildings were constructed, the pillars 
and capitals were looted from ruined churches. Byzantine 
mosaic and Coptic wood-carving were extensively used in the 
decoration of the mosques, and there is hardly a feature of 
structure or ornament which cannot be traced to earlier tradition. 
An interesting example of regional influence is the minaret in its 
various forms. In Mesopotamia, the minaret with helicoidal 
ramp, surmounted by a kiosk, is modelled on the ziggurats of 
ancient Babylon; the squat four-sided towers, with prismatic 
continuation, which form the minarets of Damascus, recall the 
funeral monuments of pagan and Christian times, and this type 
is found also in Spain and the Maghreb, carried to those regions 
by the religious and political influences of the Umayyad capital. 


Egyptian minarets seem to owe their origin to the famous Pharos 
of Alexandria, with its retreating prisms and its crowning lantern ; 
Persia, with its tradition of elegant and balanced shape, adopts 
the form of tall circular towers, while India, land of redundancies, 
masses its shafts in luxuriant designs. The Ottoman school, im- 
pressed perhaps by the triumphal columns of Constantinople, 
reared the high candles, ending in sharply pointed cones and 
girded by balconies at different heights, which dominate to this 
day the city of Stamboul. 

Islamic Art, then, is not the sudden creation of a new style; 
like the other expressions of Moslem culture, it owes its origin 
to the long-matured achievements of ancient civilizations. It is 
the fusion of these borrowed elements which is new. Melted 
by the fires of Arab energy and conquest, they merge into one 
another and issue finally in a new substance. Transported from 
country to country, bands of architects and masons, armies of 
labourers and slaves transfer to a different medium their various 
techniques. Wood carving is applied to stone; the brilliant 
textiles of Persia are imitated in brick and marble, and effects 
of relief and design give way to those of contrasted material and 
colour. Above all, the inner spirit of Islam acts as a unifying 
force upon the fluid elements. The requirements of Mahometan 
ritual make themselves felt: the mihrab, or niche, facing towards 
Mecca, to which all eyes turn in prayer, receives architectural 
treatment commensurate with its importance; the courtyard 
and well impose a definite character upon the structure of the 
mosque. The injunction ascribed to Mahomet which forbade 
the representation of men or animals exercised a radical influence 
upon Moslem decoration. The Umayyads of Syria and the 
Persian rulers, faithful to the old figure-art of their countries, 
ignored the prohibition. But elsewhere, formal ornament alone 
is employed, and from the acanthus, the vine-tendril and other 
motives of classical and Asiatic art evolves the arabesque, the 
stylized running pattern of flowers and fruit, which accompanies 
so frequently the friezes of picturesque Arabic lettering. The 
process of abstraction goes yet further. Natural forms are dis- 
torted out of all semblance to their originals, and rhythm and 
symmetry are the main features of the magnificent designs of 


later Mahometan artists. Interlacing geometric systems, recti- 
linear or curvilinear, symbols of unity in diversity, satisfied the 
mystic appetites of the Arabian, presenting, it has been said, 
'under the appearance of fancy and caprice the reality of a secret 
logic and a mathematical coherence*. 




rnpHERE is an almost complete absence of written records for the 

history of these islands between A.D. 400 and 550. Darkness 
hangs over them, and the mists of the Arthurian legend. In 
recent years the regional study of place-names, the excavation of 
dwellings, cemeteries, boundary and defensive earthworks, air- 
survey, and the efforts to establish reliable criteria for the dating 
of pottery, coins, and metal- work have accumulated material for 
a reconstruction of the course taken by various bands of invaders, 
the nature of their settlement, and the fate of the Romano-British 
population. A synthesis of such results may eventually enable 
some picture to be formed of these dim centuries. In the mean- 
time certain controlling factors may be noticed. 

The coast-line of England has altered considerably since early 
medieval days. 1 The east and south coast, from the Firth of 
Forth to the Isle of Wight, presented at that time alternate 
stretches of cliffs and tidal marshes. The cliffs were easily 
defensible; only the gaps formed by river-mouths required to be 
guarded, and the remains of late Roman signal-stations and 
coast-fortresses show how this was effected. The marshy inlets, 
on the other hand, lay open to the boats of the invaders, with 
their shallow draught. The Humber estuary, stretching far 
inland, formed a huge waterlogged region, and similar conditions 
were repeated on a larger scale round the Wash, where the fen 
country extended as far as Stamford and Cambridge. Tor the 
plundering raider . . . the stagnant channels would float his 
vessel into the heart of the land, and on many an island in the 
swamps he could form camps in which to rest from fighting and 
collect his booty undisturbed.* 2 

1 See the Ordnance Survey Maps of Roman Britain, and Britain in the Dark 
2 J. A. Williamson, The Evolution of England (Oxford, 1931), pp. 2 ff. 



Inland conditions show an even more striking picture. Drain- 
age and deforestation have altered the face of the countryside, 
for in Roman and Saxon times a large part of England was 
covered by dense woodland, while the valleys were frequently an 
impenetrable morass. The history of the early settlements and 
of the formation of the Saxon kingdoms was thus largely deter- 
mined by geography. The Humber estuary, continued by 
marshes, was joined on the west by the Forest of Elmet, which 
stretched to the slopes of the Pennine Hills; estuary, swamp, and 
forest forming in this way a barrier to communications between 
midlands and north. The Fen district cut pff East Anglia from 
the midlands, just as the great forest belt, extending south-west 
from the Fens to Epping, isolated Essex and forbade westward 
expansion. The greatest forest of all, the Andredsweald, covered 
a broad tract reaching practically from Winchester to Hastings, 
leaving only a strip of a few miles in breadth where the South 
Downs run parallel to the sea. 'Even as late as the eighteenth 
century, when the Weald had been largely cleared, the Sussex 
coast was difficult of access from London during the greater part of 
the year.' 1 Fartherwest theforest belt, of which Cranborne Chase 
still remains, barred the way to West Dorset and South Somerset 
for the invaders proceeding northwards from Southampton 
Water. When this prevalence of swamp and forest is borne in 
mind, the significance of such earthworks as Bokerly Dyke, pro- 
tecting the Romano-British settlements of Cranborne Chase, 
becomes apparent. Though now only a few miles of rampart set 
in open country, in those days it guarded the narrow entrance 
to a district elsewhere defended by natural obstacles. 

The fortunes of the various kingdoms are explicable largely 
by their situation.- Sussex, Kent, Essex, and East Anglia were 
doomed to political insignificance, since further expansion was 
denied them. Northumbria, Mercia, and Wessex, on the other 
hand, were able to extend their territory at the expense of the 
Romano-Britons, gaining not only in size but in variety of culture 
and population, and thus each successively emerged as the 
strongest units in England, during the seventh, eighth, and ninth 
centuries respectively. Wessex alone, whose hegemony lies beyond 

1 J. A. Williamson, loc. cit. 


the borders of this book, achieved real political supremacy. 
Northumbria, though it included, at its full, east Scotland 
below the Forth and northern England as far as the Ribble and 
Yorkshire Ouse, was torn internally by the struggles of Bernicia 
and Deira, and its Christian kings were more than once success- 
fully challenged by the pagan leaders of Mercia. Its decline, 
which had set in strongly during the eighth century, was further 
hastened by the ravages of the Northmen. Mercia from the first 
was a mixed state, a conglomeration of war bands and adven- 
turers of varied origin, occupying the large debatable territory 
of the western midlands, which must in the early years of the 
invasions have witnessed a fusion of Celt and Saxon, a compro- 
mise of two cultures. Controlled from the geographical centre of 
England, at Tamworth on the Watling Street, by ruthless and 
able chieftains, it bid fair at one period to establish a triple 
division of England for future ages, with Tamworth, possibly, 
and Lichfield as the Midland capital and archbishopric. Its 
sway extended at intervals over the Peak-dwellers in the north, 
the peoples of Cheshire and south Lancashire, and the 
Worcestershire Hwiccas in the south, while the long frontier 
which separated the Wrekin-dwellers from the Welsh kingdoms 
was perpetuated in Offa's Dyke, the work of Mercians most 
famous ruler, the correspondent of Charlemagne, and the most 
important figure in England at the close of the eighth century. 

The passing of Roman Britain still remains one of the great 
historical mysteries. Fuller knowledge, it may be conjectured, 
might tend to lessen the importance of actual dates, whether 
407 or 440, for the cessation of Roman rule in this island. It is 
probable that Stilicho's reorganization of the coast defences 
towards the close of the fourth century represents the last serious 
effort made by the Empire to retain its outlying province; and 
parallel conditions in Gaul show that the transition to barbarian 
rule was not a single episode but a gradual process. The slow 
weakening of the central government, on the one hand, had 
resulted in widespread internal disorder and confusion, causing 
landowners and local officials to arm their retainers in self- 
defence, and the population to forsake the countryside and seek 
refuge in the walled towns, while, on the other, the first onslaughts 


of the barbarians were usually succeeded by a period of more or 
less peaceful infiltration. There is evidence of similar conditions 
in Britain. Since A.D. 250 the coasts had been exposed to ravages 
on east and west, from Saxon and Irish pirates, and the German 
invasions of the fifth century were only a culmination of such 
raids, followed subsequently by immigration of families. Signs, 
too, are not wanting of a certain slowing down of Roman civiliza- 
tion in this island, beginning as early as the third century. The 
technique of building deteriorates; even in the lowland, more 
fully Romanized districts, a growing sense of insecurity is shown 
by the fortification of towns, while the lofty stone castles of the 
Saxon Shore, with their strikingly medieval aspect, emphasize 
the dangers always present to the coast-dwellers. A deadly blow 
was struck at the fabric of Romano-British life by the great raid 
of 367, when a mixed force of Picts, Irish, and Saxons swept 
through the entire country, laying waste the manor-houses and 
inflicting irreparable damage on the agricultural system of 
Britain. A trail of burnt villas marks their path, and the perma- 
nent effects of the invasion are shown by the fact that coin-hoards 
discovered on isolated Roman sites show marked diminution in 
value after this time. The next hundred years must have witnessed 
a steady if intermittent decline in the civilization of the island. 
The villas are abandoned, though most of the fortified towns 
doubtless continued in some form well into the fifth century. In 
the country districts, the earthworks and hill-top camps of pre- 
Roman days once again form a refuge for the population. Under 
pressure of foreign raids and internal strife, local leaders arise, 
as in other parts of the Empire, and the barbarian invaders 
experience here and there a temporary set-back to their advance. 
The analogy with continental conditions, however, cannot be 
pressed. The Anglo-Saxons were a people markedly different 
from the German tribes whose contact with Rome during four 
centuries, along the whole length of the Rhine and Danube 
frontiers, had deeply influenced their ideas and even their 
language. Nor could Britain, devastated and disorganized, 
present to the new-comers the impressive monuments, the in- 
destructible texture of civilized life, which they encountered in 
southern France or north Italy. The Saxon leaders were incapable 


of the admiration of an Alaric or a Theodericfor Roman institu- 
tions, the shrewd compromises of Clovis, or the city-life of the 
Lombard dukes. Shreds of scattered evidence hint doubtfully 
at their reactions to the ruined arches and columns of Roman 
buildings. They suggest a mixture of superstitious fear and dis- 
taste, coupled with an uneasy humour; ghosts of dead men, or 
powers even more mysterious, lurked there, as in the stone 
chambers and earthen barrows of an older age, and the new 
Saxon settlements habitually shunned Roman sites. The whole 
impression is that of settlers entering a derelict and largely 
depopulated country, and this is borne out by the evidence for 
the eastern and southern counties of England, where Celtic 
place-names, religion, and customs seem to have largely dis- 
appeared by the end of the sixth century. Enclaves of 'Welsh- 
men 3 , it is true, existed even here, in marsh or woodland, spared 
or undiscovered by the conquerors, and in Mercia, Northumbria, 
and Wessex the former inhabitants had gradually come to terms 
with the westward-spreading invaders, although, as with Gallo- 
Roman under Frankish rule, the wergild of the Briton was less 
than that of the lowliest free Saxon. There is reason, moreover, 
to think that the skill of the Romano-British craftsman, in Kent 
and elsewhere, was not entirely lost during and after the turmoil 
of invasion. 

Continental parallels present themselves again when the sub- 
sequent evolution of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms is considered. 
Familiarity with Roman administrative methods had fostered 
the growth of absolutism among the rulers of German tribes 
settled within the Empire, 1 and encouraged the development of 
written law. In this island Rome's office was performed by the 
Church, whose influence in moulding Anglo-Saxon institutions 
was more powerful than any other. A Kentish legal code, for 
example, appears shortly after the arrival of Augustine, and the 
authority of every successful Saxon king was buttressed by the 
counsel and co-operation of his ecclesiastics, who realized that 
a strong central government was essential to the interests of the 
Church. Contact with the European mainland, and so with 
the main stream of civilization, was maintained largely by 

1 See above, p. 41. 


churchmen, trade and diplomacy at this date being of small 
importance, while in the growth of feudal elements, such as 
increased local jurisdiction and immunity from public burdens, 
the great monasteries, as landed beneficiaries of royal piety, 
played no inconsiderable part. 

From a European point of view, undoubtedly the most striking 
aspect of the Anglo-Saxon conquest is the sudden rise of North- 
umbria to supremacy, brief but undoubted, in the world of 
Western culture. Britain under the Romans had always remained 
a frontier outpost of the Empire, a backward and unevenly 
civilized province in comparison with Gaul, Spain, and Africa. 
From 400 onwards connexion with the centre is lost, and the 
island gradually fades from the consciousness of Rome and 
Byzantium. Augustine's mission in 597 restored the links with 
the Continent, and the reunion of Celtic scholarship with the 
original tradition of Western learning produced the North- 
umbrian renaissance of art and letters. Never before or since 
has England occupied a similar position in the world's civiliza- 
tion. Even Rome was obliged to send for manuscripts to the 
northern kingdom, and Bede stands out, without possible rival, 
as the foremost scholar of the West, supreme in every branch 
of learning and in sheer intellectual force towering above the age 
in which he lived. The political decline of Northumbria in face 
of the growing Mercian power sapped the economic foundations 
of this brilliant culture, and the remnants of it perished during 
the Viking raids, when the great monasteries were sacked and 
burnt; but Alcuin and his fellows had already carried its inspira- 
tion to Aix and Tours, where it formed the basis of the Carolin- 
gian revival. The debt was repaid in part towards the end of the 
ninth century, after the Danish terror had passed, when con- 
tinental influences helped to enrich the great Winchester school 
of painting and draftsmanship, in the capital of the flourishing 
kingdom of Wessex, Rhineland models seem also to have in- 
spired the later Saxon architecture, though the unbroken insular 
tradition could challenge comparison with other varieties of 
Romanesque. The stately cathedrals of Durham and Winchester 
have vanished; the witness of a few village churches, eked out 
by meagre documentary evidence, is all that remains to us of the 


splendours of the later Anglo-Saxon achievement. It is sufficient, 
however, when taken in conjunction with the extant examples 
of Saxon sculpture and of the lesser arts practised in England at 
this time, to evoke some regret for the effacement of native 
methods before the magnificent, though often stereotyped, pro- 
ductions of the Norman builder. 


The last great racial movement in Europe which reached its 
climax before the end of the Dark Ages is the expansion of the 
Slavs a process as momentous for the ethnic future of the Con- 
tinent as any previously described, affecting, at its greatest extent, 
the whole land-mass east of a line drawn roughly from the head 
of the Adriatic to the mouth of the Elbe. It differs from the 
invasions and wanderings of other barbarians as an imper- 
ceptibly rising tide differs from a headlong cataract or from a 
winding river with alternating rapids and smooth reaches. The 
quiet entry of the Slavs on to the stage of European history is 
unnoticed by contemporary onlookers. It is not a brilliant raid 
led by outstanding personalities, like those of Goths or Vandals, 
or a swift rush from Asia, like that of the Huns. It is the steady 
expansion of a peasant race, forming at first the economic sub- 
stratum of communities led by warrior rulers, Germanic or 
Asiatic, but increasing in numbers, absorbing its conquerors; 
without political cohesion or ambition, transplanted hither and 
thither, from Baltic to Adriatic, to serve the purpose of despotic 
khagans, a rising tide of population which flows in upon East 
Germany, down into Greece, and eastwards over the plains of 
South Russia when plundering nomads give it a brief respite. 

The mist-hung depths of the Pripet marshes, where the 
majority of specialists are at present inclined to place the original 
Slav home, lay as far outside the vision of Greeks and Romans as 
the distant Asiatic steppes, where tiny mounted figures and their 
caravans could dimly be descried moving over a vast expanse of 
plain. The two pictures are indeed complementary, for the 
marsh-dwellers of Polesie, as this primitive Slav district was 
known in medieval times, can be regarded as one of those un- 
happy races, placed on the fringes of the steppe region, whose 


peaceful pursuits and sedentary life have made them the prey of 
fierce nomadic hordes. * Stray references in ancient authors show 
us a people formed by the silent expanses of reedy swamp and 
still meres, isolated families of fishers and husbandmen, occupy- 
ing scattered clearings in bog-land and forest, a reddish-haired, 
primitive folk, shy traffickers in furs and honey, scantily clad and 
escaping from their pursuers into the water or neighbouring 
thicket; masters, too, of a missile and guerrilla warfare, and 
excellent soldiers when in foreign service. 

They are a strangely anonymous nation. There is no tradition, 
no mythological genealogy of these original Slavs. The folk-lore 
of later times preserves memories chiefly of outside races who 
captured the Slav imagination. The terrible Avars figure as 
giants or monsters, while the Emperor Trajan, conqueror of 
Dacia (Transylvania and Rumania) in the second century A.D., 
becomes in Balkan legend the great Tsar Trojan, *for whom burn- 
ing gold and pure silver flow from seventy wells'. It is clear from 
this and other evidence that the Slavs had already begun to 
out-flow their primitive area before the first centuries A.D., per- 
colating southward to the Danube by either extremity of the 
Carpathians, westward over the plains that lie between Elbe and 
Vistula, and eastward towards the Volga basin and the Sea of 
Azov. The central position of their old home situated on the 
isthmus, as it were, of the European peninsula, formed by the great 
waterways of western Russia exposed them to the two extreme 
cultural influences of the Baltic and the Black Sea, while racial 
admixture of Teutonic blood on one side and Asiatic stocks 
on the other helped to accentuate the differences which were 
later to divide and distinguish the various Slavonic nationalities. 
Unnoticed by the annalists, the rising flood continued. Shortly 
before the reign of Justinian, Byzantium awoke to the existence 
of a Slav menace. All through the sixth century the Slav raids 
grew in intensity, devastating the districts of Thrace, Thessaly, 
and Macedonia, penetrating the elaborate lines of castles devised 
by Justinian to protect the Danube and the vital roads that 
joined the eastern and western parts of his empire. A cyclonic 

1 For a qualification of this view, see L. Niederle, Revue des Etudes slaves^ vol. ii, 
pp. 19 & 


storm-centre had established itself over Hungary in the shape of 
the Avars, lashing the waves of the Slavonic tide into furious 
currents, imparting to them a new and terrible driving force, 
and scattering them in spray far over Central Europe. From 
this time may be dated the Slavization of Greece, and the terri- 
torial sundering of Old and New Rome. Soon after 600, despite 
the valiant counter-attacks of Byzantine generals, the Danube 
frontier of the Empire ceased to have any practical existence. 
The Slavs took Greece from the Romans,' Isidore of Seville, a 
contemporary chronicler, notes tersely. The Roman- and 
Greek-speaking populace were driven to the Adriatic and Aegean 
fringes of the peninsula. The great trading city of Salonika, pro- 
tected by her massive walls and siege-engines, and by the strong 
arm of S. Demetrius, her tutelary saint, withstood the assault, 
but the surrounding district of Macedonia was permanently 
occupied by the Slavs. 1 The flood poured down into the penin- 
sula, and even reached the Aegean islands, but the coastal cities 
of southern Greece and the Peloponnese remained centres of Hel- 
lenic life and culture, ready to take part in the Byzantine re- 
conquest three centuries later. Far on the west, the population of 
Roman Salona, capital of Dalmatia, streamed down the hill-side 
from their ravaged city and sought refuge within the walls of 
Diocletian's huge palace at Spalato. Others fled to the Adriatic 
islands and inlets, forming a fringe of Latinity which persisted un- 
til recent times. Only in 1898 died the last speaker of the 'myste- 
rious language 5 a debased descendant of the old Roman tongue. 2 
Inland, communities of Latin speech seem to have survived in 
the former provinces both north and south of the Danube, and 
to their influence is due the origin of the Rumanian language. 
Meanwhile the Avar tornado, from its centre in Hungary, 
whirled the Slav masses in all directions, dividing tribes and 
settling fragments of them on distant frontiers, westwards in 
Carinthia and the Tirol, northwards along the Elbe and Saale, 
using their man-power on the circumference of the Avar circle 
against the troops of Bavarians, Lombards, Saxons, and Franks. 

1 By the seventh century A.D. this region was so thickly populated by Slavs that 
it became known as 'Sclavinia*. 

2 Cf.L. Niederle, Manuel del' antiquite slave, I. 68 (Paris, 1923). 


The range of the nomad influence, which extended at one time 
or another from the Peloponnese to the Baltic, can be paralleled 
by that of Altaian empires in Asia, and it bears a close resem- 
blance to that of their predecessors in Europe, the Huns. True 
to its steppe origin, the Avar rule was a plundering tyranny, 
dependent on brute force, maintained by terrorizing raids, and 
liable to sudden dissolution. Early in the seventh century the 
subject peoples rose in revolt. A Prankish merchant, called 
Samo, organized the Slavs of the Main valley against the Avars, 
and successfully maintained his kingdom against both them and 
the Franks. The Croats and the Serbs soon followed suit, and 
finally the Bulgarians on the Lower Danube formed an inde- 
pendent kingdom. Apart from the realm of Samo, however, the 
Avar masters in each district continued to dominate the Slav 
peasantry until they were merged in the surrounding population, 
and the medieval organization of these Balkan States shows clear 
traces of an Asiatic system. 

A striking instance is Bulgaria, where a western offshoot of 
the Bulgars, a race akin to die Huns, who are first heard of as 
settled on the Don, had arrived on the north-western shores of 
the Black Sea, above the Danube estuary, towards the close of 
the fifth century. After freeing themselves from the Avar yoke 
about 640, they crossed the Danube, extending their territory 
southwards to within 150 miles of the walls of Byzantium, ruling, 
as a warrior caste, the Slav agricultural population, and drawing 
from them the necessary troops for the foundation of a mighty 
empire, which by the end of the ninth century stretched almost 
to the Adriatic on the west, and thrust its apex down to the 
Pindus mountains on the south. This First Bulgarian Empire 
decided the future history of the Balkans. Had it not been for the 
fierce Bulgar khagans and their militant boyars, the Slav immi- 
grants of these parts would hardly have proved capable of offering 
permanent, organized resistance to the persistent efforts, century 
after century, of the Roman Empire, with its professional army 
and skilled tactics, to restore and retain the old frontier line of the 
Danube and the provinces which lay along its banks, and the 
glories of medieval Bulgaria, Croatia, and Serbia might never 
have been called into existence. 


The weakening of the Avar power, which continued to decline 
until its final destruction by Charlemagne, produced reper- 
cussions on the whole series of Avaro-Slav States. The great 
westward tide of Slavdom had turned. In Upper Austria it 
receded, as the Germans of Bavaria pushed forward. 1 North of 
this, a line of more than thirty little Slav tribes stretched from the 
Danube to Mecklenburg, disunited, living in scattered settle- 
ments in swamp and forest. Bohemia, encircled by mountains, 
became a strong kingdom, but the Elbe Slavs were exterminated 
or Germanized, and Charlemagne's conquest of Saxony was only 
the prelude to a further advance of the Western power, a stubborn 
conquest pursued for many generations. On the Baltic shores, 
the vikings of Scandinavia, merchants and pirates, raided the 
Slav districts, and eventually established permanent strongholds. 
Gradually they gained possession of the great trade-route formed 
by the Russian network of waterways which links Lake Ladoga 
to the Euxine, and pushing southwards they established, soon 
after 800, the dominion of Kiev, the nucleus of the future Empire 
of Russia. 


The events of the seventh century completely transformed the 
position of Byzantium in contemporary Europe. The final 
triumph of Rome over Persia in 628, wlbich had been the achieve- 
ment of Heraclius, was followed almost immediately by the wave 
of Arab invasion, which shook the foundations of both these 
former world-empires. Heraclius had not been dead ten years 
before Egypt and Syria had been lost, and with the Moslem con- 
quest of the African provinces, the Lombard advance in Italy, 
and the Slavization of the Balkans, the Roman Empire by the 
close of the century had shrunk to very small dimensions. The 
Italian revolt and the Frankish conquest of Italy lessened still 
further the influence of Byzantium in the West, and the course 
of Byzantine history can henceforth be considered apart from the 
development of the western European states, which, as Bury has 
remarked, were no longer deeply affected by what happened east 
of Italy or south of the Danube* 

1 Cf. p. 228. 


The years which preceded the accession of Leo the Isaurian 
(717-41) represent one of the darkest hours in the long life of 
Byzantium. Her vitality seemed to be declining with the con- 
traction of her frontiers. Art and letters decayed, the standard 
of education was debased, and superstition became grosser among 
all classes. The absolutism of the Imperial autocracy, which, 
owing to her precarious situation, was necessary to the very 
existence of Byzantium, had been seriously challenged by the 
aristocratic opposition, as is shown by the swift succession of 
emperors no less than seven in twenty years several of whom 
owed their elevation to the intrigues of the great landed nobility 
of the Empire. 

The rise of the strong Isaurian house marks literally a new 
orientation of Byzantine affairs. Dynastic struggles, with their 
anarchical consequences, disappear, not to be seen again till the 
opening of the next century. The capital, menaced by the full 
might of the Umayyads in the great siege of 7 1 7-18, was superbly 
defended by Leo, a soldier by profession, at the very outset of 
his reign, 1 and the Empire thereafter held its own on the Islamic 
front until with the transference of the seat of power (c. 750) from 
Umayyad Damascus to Abbasid Baghdad the centre of distur- 
bance receded into Asia. A thorough reform of the finances, 
encouragement to commerce, and a salutary development of 
military organization in the provinces, in the interests of threat- 
ened frontiers, must also be counted to the credit of the Isaurians. 
Such achievements can be paralleled by those of the Heraclians, 
the Macedonians, and other saviours of Byzantium in her hour 
of need. So far, then, the dynasty may be considered as being 
in the tradition. Here, however, the resemblance ends. The 
Isaurians are, in fact, the creators of a revolutionary policy, able 
innovators who deflected the course of Byzantine life during two 
centuries by the force of their alien, Asiatic idealism. That life 
was destined to flow once more in its customary channels. The 
Weltanschauung of a whole civilization is too strong a current to 
be changed by a few individuals, for it was nothing less than the 
Mediterranean inheritance which was challenged by the Isaurian 

1 See above, p. 157. 


One of the chief elements in that inheritance was the Roman 
legal system, which governed so many aspects of Byzantine social 
life. The Ecloga a popular handbook to the most important 
laws, issued under Leo III shows a startling change in this 
system. No longer are the Roman jurists the sources of authority; 
jurisprudence is 'based on revelation', and legal doctrine is 
justified by texts quoted from the Scriptures. .The notion of 
marriage as a civil contract, dissoluble by mutual consent, gives 
place to the sacramental view promulgated by the Church 
councils, and divorce is accordingly made more difficult to 
obtain. Ecclesiastical influence is also visible in other matters, 
for instance in the increased penalties for sexual offences and 
the substitution of mutilation for death as the supreme punish- 
ment, in order to leave the sinner opportunity for repentance. It 
is illuminating to find that this process of christianization was 
arrested towards the end of the ninth century, when a reaction 
to the.principles of Justinianian law takes place. Byzantium, the 
holy city, defender of the orthodox faith, shows herself also, and 
more fundamentally, the heir and repository of the traditions 
of pagan ImperiarRome. 

From this source comes also another deep-rooted conception 
in the Byzantine world, that of the indivisibility of Church and 
State. 1 The safety and prosperity of the Empire depended on 
spiritual no less than material resources, and the authority of the 
civil power was reinforced by religious sanctions. Emperors who, 
like the iconoclast Isaurians, interfered with the popular mani- 
festations of religion relics, icons, and reverence for monastic 
orders betrayed the existence of a dualism, a possibility of 
conflict between secular and ecclesiastical authority, which 
was clearly contrary to Byzantine public policy, and therefore 
doomed eventually to fail. This tipping of the balance in favour 
of the State produced an opposite movement in the followers ,of 
Theodore, Abbot of Studium, (d. 826), who claimed complete 
self-government for the Church, and even supported the Pope 
against their own Emperor. Such ideas were equally alien 
to Byzantine thought, and both extremes finally disappeared, 
leaving the Emperor once more exercising supremacy over 

1 Cf. p. 93- 


Church affairs, a supremacy, however, tempered by discretion 

in the handling of popular susceptibilities. 

The final challenge to Byzantine standards was the Iconoclast 
movement itself. This, though in some aspects it formed part 
of the Imperial secular reforms, was essentially dictated by 
religious conviction, 1 and it is as a doctrinal question that the 
whole problem was viewed by contemporaries. To deny the 
possibility of representing Christ by a visible image, claimed 
the adversaries of Iconoclasm, was to deny 'the reality of the 
Incarnation, and therewith the basis of the Christian faith. 
The intense bitterness of the struggle can be fully appreciated 
only if this central contention is constantly borne in mind. 2 The 
Iconoclastic controversy, however, was a dispute which gathered 
into itself religious, political, philosophic, aesthetic, and perhaps 
racial differences, many of which had their origins in a long- 
distant past. No modern formula can recapture and recreate 
for us the complicated issues involved. The war was waged on 
all levels, and opinions ranged from the 'two extremes through 
every form of compromise. It is easy to discover absurdities on 
either side Emperors, on the one hand, who carry on the cam- 
paign by canonizing Judas Iscariot and removing the 'Saint* 
from place-names; a magical cult of images, on the other, which 
at its most degraded belongs properly to the pathology of fetich- 
ism. The philosophic difference, however, was real and im- 
portant, though it may be doubted whether, through the clouds 
of misrepresentation and heated feelings, most of the combatants 
viewed clearly the shapes against which they tilted. The diffi- 
culties inherent in the relation of images to what they represented 
were an old story in pagan times, and the argument had been 
carried on through all the centuries of Christianity. Both sides 
had therefore a copious store of precedent on which to draw, 
apart from the passages which were torn from their original 
context in scriptural or patristic literature and moulded to serve 
as ammunition in verbal warfare. 

1 Religion and politics, as we have just seen, cannot be wholly separated, and no 
doubt in the eyes of the iconoclast rulers who were not so sternly rational as they 
have^sometimes been paintedthe safety of the State from earthquake, pestilence, 
and invasion depended to a considerable degree on the prevalence of what they 
considered correct dogma. * Sec Appendix B. 


The Iconoclast party was recruited largely from Asia Minor, 
the home of the Isaurian emperors, the greater part of their 
troops, and many of their officials. In this region flourished 
several puritan sects, and not only these, but the doctrines of 
their Islamic neighbours may have had their effect in producing 
antipathy to 'idolatry'. But the emperors themselves were not 
heretical; they could appeal, equally with their opponents, to 
the orthodox tradition of the Church. Nor must too much stress 
be laid on the antithesis of an Asiatic, abstract symbolism to the 
'representative' Graeco-Roman art. The Mediterranean had 
for many centuries been exposed to Oriental influences, 1 and 
Byzantine art had already lost many of its classical character- 
istics. The mosques and palaces of the Asiatic caliphs exerted 
at this time, as was natural, the powerful attraction which a 
wealthy and magnificent art never fails to inspire; but it is 
probable that the iconoclastic struggle did not fundamentally 
affect the evolution of the Byzantine style, the main principles 
of which had already established themselves under Justinian. 

In 725 Leo began his campaign for the destruction of images. 
Soldiers mounted on ladders and removed the great figure of 
Christ over the Palace gate in the main square of Constantinople. 
An angry crowd gathered, rioting followed, and a soldier was 
done to death by the mob. A series of disorders in the capital, 
Greece, and the Cyclades resulted from the Imperial decrees; 
a rival emperor was even put forward, but the conspiracy was 
crushed, and Leo's policy finally prevailed, supported on the 
whole by the educated classes. Under Constantine V the struggle 
became yet more bitter, and the political activities of the monks 
a danger to the State which Leo had already foreseen crystal- 
lized into a demand for Church autonomy. Constantine, equal 
in military genius and superior in statecraft to his father, met his 
opponents on their own ground, and Iconoclasm was upheld by 
all the resources at his command. In 787 Irene, taking advantage 
of a popular outburst, restored the images, but Iconoclasm 
returned on the wave of another reaction, in 815. Gradually, 
however, its power dwindled; the army lost influence at Court, 
and the monks of Studium gained the ascendancy. In 843 the 

1 Seep. 87. 


Empress Theodora, acting as regent for her son Michael, was 
able to combine the fulfilment of her own wishes with the 
demands of policy by giving back to the populace the image- 
worship that they had never ceased to desire. 

The repercussions in the West of the Iconoclast controversy 
can be over-estimated. Intense feeling was aroused, for images 
and relics played a vital part in popular devotion, but the 
philosophic issues involved were not understood. Hatred of 
Byzantine officials and Byzantine taxes, local patriotism and 
politics were more potent causes of the Italian revolt, and it was 
Byzantine military weakness which produced the Prankish inter- 
vention. The quarrel was only one episode in the growing 
estrangement between Papal Rome and Imperial Constanti- 
nople. The return of image-worship did not mend matters, for 
the fundamental differences were not really doctrinal. The 
periods of schism between the two churches, which had become 
longer and more frequent, culminated in the final rupture of 
1054, but even after that date agreement on dogma could have 
been reached. It was not the Tilioque clause', but the papal 
claims to supremacy and the calculations of the Eastern and 
Western Emperors which prevented a reconciliation. At the 
same time, the barrier of speech and custom grew continually 
higher. Leo the Isaurian, as a counter-stroke to the Pope's 
defiance, had attached Sicily, South Italy, and Dalmatia to the 
Byzantine patriarchate, and an influx of Greek refugee monks 
into Italy during the reign of his successor popularized many 
elements of Eastern worship there. But the conquest of Sicily 
by the Moslems in the following century weakened the hold of 
Byzantium upon the West, while the heathen Slav nations of the 
Balkans formed an additional obstacle to direct intercourse. 
Bulgaria, converted to Christianity from Byzantium in the ninth 
century, after dallying with the alternative of allegiance to Rome 1 
finally remained Orthodox, and her western boundaries (which 
then included much of modern Serbia) marked the frontier of 
Byzantine religious and cultural influence. A new line of division 
was thus added to the innumerable causes of Balkan discord, the 
consequences of which remain to the present day. 

1 Cf. S. R\wcimaii 9 AHistoryoftheFirstBtilgarianEmpire 3 pp. 99 ff. (London, 1930). 



AT the death of Clovis, in 51 i, his kingdom was divided among 
,/\his four sons, c as if it had been a private estate' . This Frankish 
custom of inheritance is a cardinal fact in Merovingian history; 
to it is due much of the incoherence and confusion of the period. 
Following the death of successive rulers, continual partitions are 
made, often based on purely personal considerations. The east 
of France, for instance, was combined on this occasion with the 
Auvergne, and no account was taken of races or nationalities. 
But in spite of this division, the kingdom was still regarded as a 
unity, as its contemporary title, Regnum Francorum> implies, and 
the four sons of Clovis recognized their common duty to complete 
the conquest begun by their father. The four capitals, moreover, 
Rheims, Orleans, Paris, and Soissons, were situated at the 
extremities of each domain, in close proximity to each other, thus 
forming a centre of German influence. 

The dynastic story of the next half-century is a long series 
of murders, annexations, revolts, and repartitions. Unity was 
temporarily restored in 558, when, out of all the descendants of 
Clovis, only Chlotar remained. In spite of civil wars, the con- 
solidation and extension of the conquests of Clovis had steadily 
proceeded. Burgundy had been finally subdued in 534 1 and now 
formed part of the Frankish dominions, though its hundred years 
of independent existence had given it a certain unity of culture 
which was never completely lost. Provence, which had once 
belonged to Theoderic, the Ostrogoth ruler of Italy, was relin- 
quished by his successors about the same time. Septimania, the 
district lying between the Rhone and the Pyrenees, still remained 
in Visigoth hands, and Brittany acknowledged no more than a 
nominal overlordship on the part of the Franks. Roughly speak 
ing, however, Gaul had been conquered up to its natural bound- 
aries. Outside these limits, Frankish arms were not so successful. 
Expeditions into North Italy and Spain led to no permanent 
result, though the weakness of Ostrogoths and Visigoths 

1 Gf. p. 76. 

A.D. 511-561 

o so 100 150 ioomilej 
Dominions oF Chilpenc 

A.D. 568 



prevented any possibility of reprisals. Theudibert, the most enter- 
prising son of Clovis, had planned at one time to join the Gepids 
and Lombards in a concerted raid upon Thrace, and is even 
said to have contemplated an attack upon Byzantium itself. But 
too much must not be made of this. Theudibert was neither a 
Charlemagne nor an Otto, and there is no evidence to indi- 
cate that any real political insight lay behind these grandiose 

The real advance during this period was in the eastward direc- 
tion. The Franconian conquests of Clovis were rounded off. 
Bavaria yielded allegiance; Thuringia was subdued. The Saxon 
tribes of the great plains of Central Germany proved more 
recalcitrant, and drove back the invaders with heavy loss. A 
beginning, however, had been made of the process which Charle- 
magne was to bring to fulfilment, and the way was being pre- 
pared for the Christian missionaries who were later to undertake 
the conversion of Germany. 

A great contrast is presented by the character of the next half- 
century. Conquest now gives place to civil war. Expeditions 
into North Italy continued, as before, but no permanent annexa- 
tion followed. Efforts were made to wrest Septimania from the 
Visigoths, and the walls of Carcassonne and Nimes witnessed the 
clash of arms; but the district remained subject to the rulers of 
Spain, and passed later under the Moslem yoke. Bretons and 
Basques still maintained their independence, and the Avar raids 
on Thuringia which took place at this time forbade any further 
expansion on the eastern frontier. 

The wave of conquest had spent itself, and within the Prankish 
realm the forces of dissolution were in full play. The pages of 
Gregory of Tours hold for us the story of this time. They chronicle 
pestilence and famine, murder, and sudden death. Beggars and 
highwaymen infest the roads, and even the churches are not 
safe from rapine. The Meroving princes, in their internecine 
feuds, call to their aid the nobles of their kingdoms ; the result is 
seen in the growth of feudal independence and lawlessness, and 
in the antagonism of Austrasia and Neustria, Burgundy and 
Aquitaine, which appear destined to form separate principalities. 


Chlotar, the last surviving son of Clovis, died in 561, leaving 
four sons. Of these, Charibert, king of Paris, lived only till 567. 
Sigebert, king of Metz, and Chilperic, king of Soissons, carried 
on a bitter contest for supremacy, while the fourth brother, 
Guntram, king of Orleans and Burgundy, endeavoured to hold 
the balance between them. The enmity between Sigebert and 
Chilperic became even more deadly when both married royal 
sisters, Brunhilda and Galswintha, from the luxurious and 
civilized Visigoth court. Chilperic's wife, Galswintha, was found 
strangled in suspicious circumstances, and Chilperic returned to 
his former mistress, Fredegund. Shortly afterwards Sigebert, in 
the hour of victory over Chilperic, was brought down by the 
poisoned daggers of Fredegund's agents. Brunhilda was made 
prisoner, but managed to escape to her son's kingdom, where 
she planned revenge for the double murder. The period is 
dominated henceforth by the figure of Brunhilda, queen and 
regent of Austrasia that is, the Eastern Franks and by her 
struggle against Neustria, the domain of Chilperic in north and 
west (must . . 'newest 9 , i.e. the latest conquests). Chilperic is a 
type of the Merovingian despot; his two ruling passions are the 
increase of his wealth and the extension of his borders. In pursu- 
ance of these aims he sells bishoprics, levies oppressive taxes, and 
fines his wealthy subjects, while no treachery is too mean, no 
cruelty too savage, in his schemes against rival princes of the 
Meroving house. To Gregory of Tours, he is the Nero and Herod 
of his age. Such qualities are common form among his con- 
temporaries ; but Chilperic has claims to originality. Despising 
the Germanic tongue, he composed Latin hymns and poems; 
four letters were added to the alphabet by his decree. The Three 
"Persons of the Trinity were condemned as anthropomorphic 
follies, and his free-thinking even challenged the Salic Law, that 
bulwark of Frankish custom, in an attempt to allow the inheri- 
tance of women in certain cases. Brunhilda, his principal 
opponent, presents an even more remarkable personality. For 
more than thirty years she controlled the destinies of Austrasia, 
holding her own against the attacks of Chilperic, the arrogance of 
nobles, and the insubordination of her sons and grandsons. From 
575 to 596 she ruled as regent for her son. By the help of loyal 


vassals and of a timely coalition with Burgundy, she hunted down 
her treacherous nobles. One perished in the flames of a burning 
castle, another was killed by tiles hurled through the roof of 
the bishop's chapel at Verdun. Her two grandsons were set on the 
thrones of Burgundy and Austrasia; but Brunhilda still held the 
reins of power. When the Austrasian prince revolted against her 
tyranny, she turned his brother against him, and he was defeated 
and put to death. But the end of her long career was in sight. In 
613 the Burgundian ruler died, and Brunhilda' s efforts to com- 
bine Austrasia and Burgundy under her great-grandson were 
unsuccessful. The nobles of Austrasia, led by Arnulf, bishop of 
Metz, and Pipin, mayor of the Palace, the founders of the Caroling 
fortunes, called in the Neustrian king to their aid, and Brunhilda 
was taken prisoner on the shore of Lake Neufchatel. She was 
tortured for three days, and finally her body was tied to the tail of 
a vicious horse, which was set loose and lashed into fury, 

Brunhilda had known how to control the forces of her realm. 
She had treated the Church with great firmness, at the same 
time making many gifts to bishoprics and monasteries. The 
correspondence carried on with her by Pope Gregory the Great 
shows that he realized her power in Church and State, and the 
importance of her influence in France. Under Chlotar II, who 
now succeeded to the throne of the whole kingdom, the nobles 
seemed to have won the day. In Austrasia, especially, their 
co-operation had been decisive in gaining the victory, and the 
price they extorted was seen in the Edict of 614. The Church 
asserted its independence, and demanded freedom of episcopal 
elections and extended powers for the ecclesiastical courts, while 
the landed aristocracy secured a triumph over the Court officials, 
since the Counts 1 were henceforward to be chosen from the dis- 
tricts they were to administer, local and hereditary influence thus 
having fall- -play. Considerable autonomy was granted to 
Austrasia and Burgundy ; each of the kingdoms now had its 
distinct character and separate administration, headed by the 
mayors of the Palace, who were as much the representatives of 
the interests of the local nobility as they were of the king. Already 

1 Cf. p. 203. 


the kingdoms themselves were being parcelled out into seignories, 

carrying the disintegration farther still. 

At this point, however, the process was arrested for a brief 
space, and the reign of Dagobert (629-39), the last great Merov- 
ing, witnesses a final burst of vigour on the part of the central 
power. For ten years he ruled the whole of France, virtually 
relegating his brother to the position of Warden of the Basque 
Marches. The arts flourished at his brilliant and scandalous 
court, the goldsmith's activities being specially favoured. Abbeys 
were founded, and there was considerable missionary enterprise. 
Bretons and Basques were made to swear allegiance, and Prankish 
influence was felt in the affairs of Italy and Spain. Dagobert 
even concluded an alliance with Heraclius, to provide for con- 
certed action against the Slavs and Bulgars of Central Europe, 
who threatened alternately the Rhine and Danube frontiers of 
France and Byzantium. 

On the death of Dagobert, the kingdom was divided into two, 
and the decentralizing process resumed its course. Even during 
his lifetime, Austrasia had demanded a separate ruler in the 
person of the king's son, and the separatist tendencies of the three 
parts of France now showed themselves more openly. The history 
of the following century is the story of the rival ambitions of the 
mayors. Meroving princes are born and die, short-lived phan- 
toms worn out by premature debauchery, rois faineants, exhibiting 
at best a \yeak piety or a pliant amiability. But the real power 
lies in the hands of the great officers of state, whose struggles for 
personal ascendancy decide the issues of the kingdom. The posi- 
tion of the mayors was a contradictory one in certain respects. 
They were at the same time, as we have already noticed, the 
representatives of the king, and the heads of the local nobility. 
When these rival interests clashed, some of the mayors took one 
side, some the other. Grimoald, mayor of Austrasia, had the 
hardihood to declare himself against both. In 656 he banished 
the Meroving prince to Ireland, and set his own son on the throne. 
But the time was not yet ripe for such an adventure; he was over- 
powered by the nobles, and delivered over to the king of 
Neustria, who put him to death. A hundred years were to elapse 


before his descendants, the Carolings, found themselves strong 
enough to exercise the regal power in their own name. Mean- 
while the civil wars went on, each mayor striving to exalt his own 
province, either to satisfy the king whom he served, or to placate 
the land-grabbing instincts of his fellow nobles. 

Under the fierce energy of its mayor, Ebroin, the Neustrian 
kingdom gained the upper hand in 657, but Austrasia demanded 
its own mayor and king, and Burgundy, led by the bishop of 
Autun, afterwards canonized as St. Leger, likewise asserted its 
independence. Leger was captured and put to death with cruel 
tortures, which won for him in later times the crown of martyr- 
dom, and Neustria once more resumed its hegemony. The 
supremacy of Ebroin was maintained until his death (68 1), but 
already a new star had risen above the horizon. Pipin II, leader 
of the Austrasian nobles, had suffered defeat at the hands of 
Ebroin, but a few years later, taking advantage of the dissension 
which prevailed among the Neustrians, he marched into the 
rival kingdom and on the field of Tertry, near Peronne, overcame 
all resistance, and established himself as the real ruler of France 
(687). The Battle of Tertry was not a victory of the Germans of 
the East over the Romans of the West; for Pipin had gained the 
support of a large Neustrian faction. It was in appearance a 
victory of the nobles over the royal authority which had been 
championed by Grimoald and his successor; but in reality it was 
the personal triumph of Pipin. From henceforward he was master 
of France, bestowing mayorships on members of his family, and 
ruling as a king in all but name. It is thus virtually the end of the 
Merovings, and the beginning of the Caroling dynasty. 

From 687 to 714 Pipin had controlled the country, and his 
strong hand had restored it to a prominent place in the politics 
of Western Europe. At his death, the fortunes of his family and 
the unity of France hung once more in the balance. His two 
legitimate sons had died before him, and his grandsons were not 
yet of age. Burgundy and Neustria split asunder, and the general 
disorder spread to all parts. In the north-east, the Frisians de- 
vastated the country about Cologne ; the Saxons, farther south, 
had followed suit, while Aquitaine seized the opportunity once 

4I4S H 


again to proclaim its independence. But the Caroling house had 
found its champion as well as its name-giver. Charles Martel, 
third son of Pipin, triumphed successively over all obstacles. 
Using, like his father, the Austrasian power, he quelled the 
Neustrian dissidents, reduced the Aquitanians to submission, 
restored the eastern frontiers in a series of successful campaigns, 
and in 732 routed the Arab forces on the field of Poitiers, 1 follow- 
ing up his victory, five years later^ by an expedition into Provence. 
Aquitanian independence, however, proved to have been only 
scotched, not killed; and the Arabs still retained possession of 
Narbonne, from whose walled shelter they sallied forth upon the 
cities of the Rhone valley. 

It was Pipin, son of Charles, who finally accomplished the 
reduction of Aquitaine. His conquest was deliberate, successful, 
and permanent. More statesmanlike than his father, he took care 
to conciliate the Church by studied favours, and to form a loyal 
party among the Aquitanians themselves. His careful policy had 
shown itself earlier, in a notable event. In 751, having obtained 
from the Pope a favourable response to his project, Pipin assumed 
the crown of France, the last of the Merovings being tonsured and 
relegated to the monastic life. Three years later Pipin was 
formally crowned at St. Denis by Pope Stephen II, who had 
crossed the Alps to seek Frankish aid against the Lombards. 
Coronation was a novel rite for the Franks ; it set the seal upon 
Pipings election to the kingdom which had already been approved 
by the assembly of the people. The theory of Divine Right vested 
in a single family was to assume a greater significance in subse- 
quent French history; but even at this period the sacred unction 
of the Church, with its scriptural precedents, was felt to be 
necessary in that it counterbalanced the sacrilege done to the 
Merovings, descendants of the legendary Sea-God, who retained 
even in their decline the mysterious sanctity of far-off pagan 

The alliance of Pope and Caroling, which was to alter the 
whole course of European history, was no casual event. It is true 
that the form which it took was due to the policy of certain 

1 Gf. p. 156. 


outstanding personalities; but the converging influences which 
made that policy desirable were the outcome of slow-moving 
developments. Clovis, it will be remembered, had created what 
amounted to a national church. This independence was con- 
tinued under his descendants, and even Gregory the Great, in 
spite of his legate at Aries, could not enforce his claims to authority, 
but was obliged to limit himself to the employment of indirect 
influence through such a medium as Brunhilda. The confusion 
caused by the civil wars was reflected in the state of the Church; 
in the divided realm no general councils could be held, and the 
bishops were embroiled in the political discord. Temporal and 
ecclesiastical powers were intermingled, and the voice of the 
Papacy could not make itself heard amid the din of arms. When 
order was restored under the Garolings, it was found necessary 
to complete the political union of France by more strictly organ- 
izing the administration of the Church. Charles Martel had only 
increased the disorder, for he had rewarded his followers with 
gifts of bishoprics and abbeys; but Pipin and his brother Carlo- 
man, who afterwards retired to a monastery, were favourable to 
the projects of reform set before them by Boniface, and a series 
of decrees followed, regulating the hierarchy and morals of the 
Church in France. Boniface, an English missionary, had already 
performed notable services in Germany, where he had converted 
vast numbers of the heathen. His remarkable achievements will 
be referred to again, but the significance of his work in the present 
connexion lies in his close relations with the Papacy. Boniface 
was a loyal servant of the Pope ; from every bishop under his 
jurisdiction he demanded an oath of submission to the Church 
of Rome, St. Peter, and his Vicar. Pipin and Carloman, while 
maintaining sovereign rights over the Church, frequently had 
occasion to consult the Pope, and the bond between the two 
great powers of the West became gradually closer. Already 
Charles Martel had received an appeal for succour from the 
Papacy, hard pressed in its struggle with the Lombards. He had 
not responded, for his position was not sufficiently secure to allow 
him to embark on foreign and hazardous campaigns ; the Lom- 
bards, moreover, were the natural allies of the Franks, and had 
joined him in his warfare against the Saracens. There was also 


the position of the rulers of Byzantium to be considered, who still, 
as Roman Emperors, laid claim to the overlordship of Italy. But 
events were moving rapidly to a conclusion. In 75 1 the Lombard 
king hurled his forces upon Ravenna ; the Exarch fled, and the 
Byzantine domains in North Italy were lost for ever. In the same 
year, with papal encouragement, Pipin assumed the crown, dis- 
placing the last Merovings. The Lombard menace to the Papacy 
now became an instant peril; absolute submission was demanded, 
and the fall of Rome appeared inevitable. Pipin still hesitated, 
and two years later the Pope himself crossed the Alps on his 
memorable mission, which was destined to bring the Prankish 
forces into Italy, and to perpetuate the union of Pope and 
Caroling in the Holy Roman Empire. 

Much has been made of the survival of the Imperial idea during 
the centuries which elapsed between the fall of Rome and the 
coronation of Charlemagne. It is true that the Western Empire 
had its roots in the far distant past, and drew naturally upon 
ancient precedent; moreover, its foundation did not revolution- 
ize the political situation in the West ; it merely gave formal 
expression to a state of affairs already in existence. But the 
curious circumstances of its origin, and the very considerable 
differences which separated it from its prototype, the old Roman 
Empire, were due in no small measure to the remarkable 
amalgam of German and Latin cultures which characterized 
the inhabitants of theFrankish dominions. Of this, only the most 
fleeting impression can be given here. A complex process of three 
centuries, varying in each district and each period, and insuffi- 
ciently known to us from fragmentary records, precludes the 
possibility of confident generalization. 

In appearance, it might seem that the political and admini- 
strative organization of France was little different from that of 
Roman Gaul. Methods and terminology had been borrowed 
from Rome, and Latin was actually the official tongue. It is 
noticeable in this connexion that only 10 per cent, of the words 
in modern French are of Germanic origin. As far as their relative 
legal status was concerned, only the wergild distinguished the 
Franks from the rest of the population, while the ranks of the 


higher clergy, as well as the financial offices, were filled largely 
by Gallo-Romans. But if the forms remained unchanged, the 
spirit of these institutions was profoundly altered, not only by 
direct Germanic influences, but also by the new conditions 
brought about by die invasions. The Roman Empire had re- 
posed on the abstract idea of the State, of laws and government 
equal for all, and independent of those who represented them. 
One was a citizen of the Empire, rather than a subject of the 
Emperor. The Prankish kingdom, on the other hand, depended 
for its existence on the personal relation of man to man. The 
power of the monarch was personal; it varied with the character 
of its holder. His subjects were bound to him by an oath of fidelity, 
a personal tie, constraining them to follow him in war. A new 
order of nobility developed, dependent at first on the monarchy, 
and later gaining strength from hereditary local influence, and 
from the immunities bestowed on it. In the legal sphere, the 
personal element was equally apparent. A man was tried by the 
laws of the race to which he belonged, whether Gallo-Roman, 
Salian, Ripuarian, or Burgundian. The old German principle 
of the blood-feud was not yet extinguished, and the pages of 
Gregory of Tours teem with stories of revenge. The highly 
specialized bureaucracy of Roman Gaul no longer existed; more 
primitive conditions rendered it useless. Chamberlain, Seneschal 
and Constable surround the King, and special missions are per- 
formed by courtiers chosen without system. The districts are 
ruled by Counts, selected by the monarch from all classes of the 
population, and the frontier marches are given into the hands of 
military Dukes, who often become, as in the case of Bavaria or 
Thuringia, practically independent national rulers. Toll-gates 
and ferries still paid their dues, though these had in many cases 
been usurped by individuals, but the elaborate system of taxa- 
tion which had characterized the Roman administration was 
allowed to fall into disuse; there was no place for it in the scheme 
of a ruler who had no public services to keep up, and who 
regarded money as something which formed part of a 'hoard*, to 
be transformed, when possible, into gold plate or jewelled trin- 
kets. Even the army is not a public charge; the 'host' is gathered 
afresh for each campaign. It is the personal following of the king, 


and serves at its own costs. The only permanent forces are the 
antrustions, or royal bodyguard, and a few frontier detachments. 

The 'hierarchy of the wergild' 1 ranges society at first into con- 
querors and conquered, placing the Gallo-Rornan beneath the 
lowliest Frank. This does not last long. Personal distinctions 
assert themselves, and while the senatorial class continues to 
supply bishops and officers of state, the richer Franks acquire a 
veneer of Roman culture. The two classes merge into one 
another, and the slaves, freedmen and coloni of both races follow 
their example. Here, too, the loyalty of individual to individual 
is the binding force. Bishop or abbot, court official or local 
governor are the king's leuds, his 'men', attached to him by a 
special tie, and placed under his-protection. The same principle 
is found in each pagus\ the counts range themselves under the 
dukes, and lesser men seek the protection of the count. Already 
the feudal chain is forming, though still unrecognized by law, 
and the word lend is beginning to be superseded by the significant 
term vassus. This personal dependence, moreover, is reinforced 
and materialized by the growth of large estates. As in the later 
centuries of Roman rule, the smaller landowner hastens to place 
himself under the protection of a powerful patron, surrendering 
his freehold for the promise of security. Abbeys and bishoprics 
add field to field, for Church property, once acquired, is inalien- 
able, and over a third of France has fallen into ecclesiastical 
hands. The weakness of the central power shows itself also in 
the misdoings of its subordinates, and in order to save themselves 
from the exactions of these officials, the greater landowners 
obtain 'immunities'. Henceforth the royal officers are excluded 
from such lands, and the rights and profits of taxation and juris- 
diction devolve upon the owners. Ownership and sovereignty 
are in fact becoming identified, and the shadowy monarchy has 
thus divested itself of its few remaining powers. The transition 
from the central government and wide horizon of Roman days 
to the local grouping and restricted outlook of the Middle Ages 
is nearing completion. 

The old city life is gone. Temples and amphitheatres lie in 
ruins, and inside the walled towns the empty spaces are occupied 

1 Cf.p.66. 


by gardens. The rural population clusters round the dwelling of 
the big landowner, with its church, its mill, its forge, bakeries and 
stables, and all the apparatus of a self-contained existence. 
Sometimes the cottages of the dependents are in outlying parts 
of the estate, but more often they stand in streets, the ancestors 
of most of the villages of modern France. The houses of the rich 
have still their porticoes and columns, their baths and fountains. 
Churches are rising everywhere, some of basilican type, others 
cruciform, with central tower and lantern, others again con- 
structed of wood, after the Teutonic fashion. The interiors are 
bright with coloured marble and rich with silken broideries; but 
the marble has been torn from some classical edifice, and the 
silken hangings are of Byzantine origin. Sculpture is barbaric, 
and the great tradition of the Arlesian sarcophagi has finally 
died out. Only the craft of the metal-worker flourishes. It enjoys 
special favour at the Meroving Court, and the goldsmiths' 
quarter is already established under the shadow of Notre Dame 
at Paris. 

The spoken tongue is changing rapidly. Little difference is to 
be found between the literary and the vulgar language, and 
under the pressure of phonetic laws the various dialects are 
already in process of formation. Flumina de sanguine is used for 
'rivers of blood', and promissum habemus for c we have promised'. 
Many German loan-words have been adopted, and the German 
tongue holds its own in the eastern districts. Apart from the 
history of Gregory of Tours, literature is practically confined to 
the Lives of Saints, which repeat, for the most part with weari- 
some similarity, the miraculous exploits of their heroes. Stock 
phrases and clumsy sentences succeed one another ; no writer 
is master of his words. Knowledge of the Classics is to all intents 
and purposes non-existent, and even theological dogma has 
become a sealed book to most of the Gallic clergy. Popular 
religion is permeated by pagan customs, and paganism itself 
is by no means extinct. The Celtic deities of lake and stream have 
still their secret worshippers, and Odin his dwelling-place in the 
deep forests of the Ardennes. The preaching of the Church, 
reinforced by the terrors of the secular arm, will deprive the 
old gods of their authority, but the Black Huntsman, the Witches' 


Sabbath, and all the rout of fairies, dwarfs, and monsters will 
remain to haunt the imagination of the Middle Ages. Already 
the Devil ('the Enemy', as he is beginning to be called a word 
of fear and mystery) has become prominent in popular beliefs, 
and religion takes on a more sombre cast. The vengeance of God 
or the malice of the Evil One can be averted only by ritual 
observance. Saints appear in the fields, miracles and portents 
are affairs of everyday experience. Dreams and omens exercise 
men's minds, and sanctuaries and relics acquire talismanic 
powers to heal or hurt. 

What more natural, in such a world, than that the Emperor 
Constantine, miraculously cured of his leprosy, should have 
turned to Christianity, bringing with him the whole of the Roman 
Empire; that he should straightway Lave bestowed on Pope 
Sylvester the Imperial government of the West, himself retiring 
humbly to Byzantium? Or that St. Peter, in person, should be 
reported to be summoning the Frankish forces to the defence of 
his holy city? And how, in such a welter of forms and institu- 
tions., could the terms patricius, imperator, respublica, with their 
long and complicated history, hold any accurate constitutional 
significance for the statesman of that time? 



rr-iHE two centuries which followed the death of Gregory the 
A Great witnessed the development, slow, uncertain, and 
obscure even to its authors, of papal influence in Western Europe. 
The personal character and prestige of Gregory had raised the 
See of Peter to an eminence which his successors were unable to 
maintain. Once his commanding authority was removed, the 
instability of his claims became manifest. Some of the problems 
presented by the barbarian kingdoms had been solved, but new 
and greater difficulties were making themselves felt. Arianism 
was a dying force. The Lombards had turned to the Catholic 
faith, and Spain followed their example when Reccared (586- 
60 1 ) adopted Catholicism as the national religion. The danger 
was now a different and more serious one. The Germanic rulers, 
each engaged in building up a strong central power, could not 
afford to dispense with any element of sovereignty. A series of 
national churches, owing lip-service only to the Papacy, would 
have been a blow at the very heart of Rome. Already there were 
ominous signs of such a thing. Clovis and his successors had 
brooked no interference with their ecclesiastical control, and the 
Papal Legacy at Aries remained an honorary position, not a 
vice-gerency of the Roman pontiffs. The conversion of the 
Lombards had not put a stop to their aggression. The Papacy, 
inter gladios Lombardorum, might well dread the advent of a 
Germanic kingdom of Italy. In Spain, Gregory's activities had 
been more fruitful. A close connexion was established between 
Rome and the Spanish bishops, and the final century of Visigoth 
rule was marked by the growth of episcopal influence, which 
extended even to secular affairs, overshadowing the power of the 
monarchy. Papal rulings were irksome to the independent 
spirit of the Spanish Church, but a more serious blow to Catho- 
lic authority was dealt by the onset of the Islamic host. 
The balance, however, was to be redressed from another 


quarter. The remnants of British Christianity had retreated 
before the advance of the Saxons into the Western regions. They 
had carried the Faith into Ireland, and a new centre of civiliza- 
tion had arisen, attracting saints and scholars from other parts of 
Western Europe. In this strange backwater of antiquity, un- 
touched by the Germanic invaders, the tradition of the old 
classical culture lingered on, attenuated and barbarized 5 in the 
great monasteries. The peculiar atmosphere of this exotic world 
is shown by its Latin poems, in which Celtic rhythms and asson- 
ance are already perceptible, and by its exquisite manuscripts, 
of which the Book of Kells, with its outlandish ornaments and 
capitals, is an outstanding example. 1 But the Irish Church was 
not content to remain in isolation. Columba spread the Gospel 
in Scotland and the Western Isles, and lona became a famous 
centre of Christianity. Columban crossed to France, and founded 
his ascetic monasteries in the Vosges. Gall in Switzerland and 
Kilian in Bavaria extended the influence of Hibernian ideals. 

There were dangers to the power of Rome in this evangelizing 
activity. Apart from minor, though controversial, differences, 
such as the date of Easter and the method of tonsure, the Celtic 
Church, both in Ireland and in western Britain, retained many 
primitive usages, and was disinclined to recognize the value 
of the organized hierarchy which had developed in more civi- 
lized regions, modelled on the administration of the Roman 
Empire. Diocese and parish, bishop and metropolitan, councils 
and canons, and above all the central authority at Rome a 
logical system of this kind aroused no enthusiasm among the 
tribal monastic communities of Ireland. And though visionary 
enthusiasts from the Isle of Saints might boldly rebuke kings, and 
even brave the wrath, on occasion, of the terrible Brunhilda, 
statesmanlike popes such as Gregory realized that the permanent 
influence of the Church upon lay society was only to be secured 
by the use of more secular weapons, and by the creation of a 
disciplined force. The monkish orders were to be an invaluable 
aid in the realization of this ideal; they could be trusted to uphold 
the papal authority in the face of unruly bishops, who were, all 
too often, only powerful nobles who had extorted their office 

1 Cf.p.88. 


from a yielding monarch. But it was not the individualist Irish 
monks, bidding defiance to king and bishop, and even to the 
Pope himself, but the Benedictines, sinking their personality in 
submission to their spiritual superiors, who were to be made use 
of in this way. 

Gregory's dispatch of Augustine on his English mission was 
the turning-point in this process, little as it may have appeared 
at the time. The gradual conversion of England, which occupied 
the greater part of the seventh century, was a series of advances 
and setbacks, caused partly by the varying fortunes of the king- 
doms, and partly by the antagonism between the Roman and 
Celtic Churches. Canterbury remained a stronghold of Roman 
influence, but Mercia was a pagan realm, and Northumbria 
wavered between allegiance to her Kentish ally and loyalty to 
the Celtic preaching of lona and Lindisfarne. The Synod of 
Whitby, in 664, which assured the triumph of the Roman 
system, gave the signal for what may be called the organization 
of an Anglo-Latin Church. The country was parcelled into 
bishoprics, and the minster became the effective centre of each 
diocese. Stone churches replaced the wooden structures of former 
times, and the parish system, after a time, came into existence. 
Regular synods were instituted, and monks and priests alike 
were subjected to the rule of their superiors. Britain was gradually 
becoming a loyal province of Rome's spiritual empire. Educa- 
tion flourished in the great schools, and church music and orna- 
ments were imported from overseas to enhance the splendour of 
Hexham and Wearmouth. Religious enthusiasm invaded the 
ruling class. Royal ladies entered the cloister, and kings inquired 
diligently for relics, or donned the pilgrim's habit, and set forth 
to end their days in Rome. 

Wilfrid of York began the series of Anglo-Saxon missionaries 
in Germany and the Low Countries, a series culminating in the 
great name of Boniface. The political consequences of the work 
of Boniface can hardly be over-estimated. The scene of his 
labours, for the most part, was a country which had lain outside 
the Roman Empire, and the conversion of its uncivilized inhabi- 
tants would have been impossible without the support of Charles 
Martel, whose conquests, in turn, owed much to the co-operation 


of Boniface and his followers. In 732 the Pope conferred upon 
Boniface the dignity of archbishop, and the Church of Germany 
was organized, under his leadership, as a faithful member of the 
Roman obedience. Bavarians and Alamans, previously con- 
verted by Irish monks, were persuaded, with the help of Prankish 
influence, to admit the papal superiority. The work of Boniface 
did not end here. At the invitation of Pipin and his brother he 
proceeded to reform the Frankish Church. Abuses were put 
down, regular councils were arranged, and the authority of the 
Pope expressly recognized by the bishops. 

Boniface had introduced Christianity and civilization into 
Central Germany; he had facilitated the advance of Charles 
Martel in that region, which foreshadowed the later annexation 
of Charlemagne; he had helped to lay the foundations of Caroling 
supremacy. He had secured to the papal allegiance the two great 
Churches of Germany and France, and had cemented the alliance 
between Pope and Frankish ruler which was destined to decide 
the history of Western Europe. The political forces whose 
coalescence resulted in the creation of the Holy Roman Empire, 
the extension, that is, of papal influence, and the consolidation 
of Caroling power, owed no less a debt to Anglo-Saxon Christi- 
anity than did the subsequent revival of art and learning which 
the tradition of Benedict Biscop and the Venerable Bede, 
developed by Alcuin and his followers, engendered at the Court 
of Charlemagne. 


The conditions of Lombard settlement within the Empire were 
wholly different from those which had accompanied the entry 
of most other Germanic races. The latter had been received 
as foederati theoretical defenders of the Roman State and 
formed, as it were, the fighting part of the population. The 
Lombards, on the other hand, occupied Italian territory as 
avowed enemies and conquerors. Roman landowners were not 
permitted to share their property with the barbarian 'guests'. 1 
They were summarily exiled and deprived at least in the early 
stages of the invasion of all legal personality. There was thus 

1 a. p. 65. 


no possibility of a dual organization such as had characterized 
the kingdom of Theoderic, 1 and the attitude of the victorious 
Lombards seemed calculated to preserve their racial unity and 
customs intact, free from dilution by Roman ideas and insti- 

Romanization, however, was destined to be brought about by 
other means, and by the period of Frankish intervention two 
centuries of settled residence in a country permeated with the 
influences, spiritual and material, of over a thousand years of 
Mediterranean civilization had wrought great changes in the 
manner of life of the invaders. Stone-built cities were regarded 
no longer as fresh places to sack; they had become the seats of 
Lombard kings or nobles, military and administrative centres of 
the territory which provided the ruling classes with their means 
of subsistence. The monarch took up his residence in the old 
Romano-Gothic^fl/dtfzHtfz at Pavia; and the quick appreciation of 
the barbarian for the luxuries of civilized existence soon rendered 
indispensable the services of a host of Roman artificers and 
tradesfolk architects, masons, jewellers, armourers, and pur- 
veyors of every variety of requisites for city life. The change is 
well seen in the pages of Paul the Deacon, a Lombard who com- 
posed the history of his people during the latter half of the eighth 
century. The dress and manners of his ancestors at their first 
appearance in Italy are already a historical curiosity, known to 
him only from the scenes from Lombard story which Queen 
Theodelinda, about A.D. 6oo ? caused to be executed for her 
palace at Monza. The pictures, he remarks, 2 show clearly the 
general appearance of the Lombards of that time, and their 
fashions in clothes and hair-cutting. The back of the head was 
shaved clean, but the hair in front was long, parted in the middle, 
and hanging down over the cheeks. They wore, he continues, 
loose clothes, mostly of linen, like those of the Anglo-Saxons, 
with broad stripes of various colours, and boots open almost to 
the toes, laced crosswise. Later on they took to wearing hose, with 
rough woollen coverings over them when they went riding; but 
this, he adds, was a custom which they took over from the Romans. 

Roman influence was not confined to fashions in clothing or 

1 Cf. p. 69. 2 Paul. Diac. iv. 22. 


weapons. Though few, probably, could speak Latin at their 
first entry into North Italy, altered conditions and greater com- 
plexity in the demands of everyday life favoured the more 
civilized speech, and eventually the use of Lombard words came 
to be considered vulgar by the nobles. Inter-marriage, as well 
as constant intercourse, with a population far outnumbering its 
conquerors completed this process, and Italian, as a result, has 
remained to this day the purest of the Romance languages. Nor 
must the cultural influence of the Church, with educational 
centres, such as the great monastery of Bobbio, in Lombard 
territory, be overlooked. Contracts, moreover, and other legal 
documents were invariably Roman in form, and although the 
Lombardic law was Germanic, here, too, Roman ideas had crept 
in, and as invariably happened with Teutonic tribes in contact 
with Imperial methods the absolutism of the ruler received a 
powerful impetus, though the position of the 'dukes' wavered 
between that of subordinate officials and practically independent 
kinglets, according to the personal strength and character dis- 
played by the monarch. Benevento and Spoleto increased their 
liberties as the eighth century took its course, but the duchies 
of North Italy gradually submitted themselves to the central 

It is, however, significant that the Lombard ruler continued 
to call himself Rex Gentis Lombardorum. His people were, and re- 
mained, distinct in status from the Roman inhabitants of Italy, 
and the instruments of the culture which has been noticed above 
were largely in the hands of Roman traders, artists, and work- 
men. The sailors whose craft plied busily along the Po, the 
armourers of Lucca and Cremona, the growers of fruit and 
vegetables for the courts of Lombard nobles such men were 
Roman for the most part, as were also, perhaps, the famous 
maestri Comacini, that shadowy guild of artists survivors, possibly, 
of the collegiate system 1 of Late Roman times whose name is 
invoked so frequently in discussions of the origins of Italian Art. 
There is, in fact, no real evidence on which claims can be based 
for the existence at this period of a specifically 'Lombardic' style 
either in architecture or decorative motifs. 


^"l.,, ' " ,, lll ^ '',. 

o 20 40 60 6p too mil 

Boundary of Lombard Kingdom c 
i - Exarchate oF Iraly c 600 

" " Papal Sfai-es c 790 

. Roman roads 




The history of Italy from A.D. 600 to 800 can be summarized 
as a struggle between five powers, with aims mutually incom- 
patible. Two of these powers the Lombard Kingdom and the 
Byzantine Empire lose their decisive influence upon Italian 
politics at the end of this period. The third that of the Prankish 
host intervenes fitfully and at intervals, but during the last 
half-century plays a predominant role, culminating in the 
supremacy of Charlemagne. The fourth the Papacy grows 
steadily in influence, an influence none the less real because 
obscured by its physical helplessness. The fifth the Duchies of 
Benevento and Spoleto represents the pair of knights on the 
Italian chessboard, insignificant in themselves, but holding 
interior lines, and often deciding a major issue by their incal- 
culable moves and unexpected attack. 1 

The constant policy of a strong Lombard king was the com- 
plete subjection of Italy. 2 Such an aim, dictated no less by the 
need of rewarding his followers with land than by that of personal 
security and prestige, was naturally opposed by the other four 
powers. But Byzantine exarchs at Ravenna did not hesitate to 
employ the Lombard forces against rebellious Popes, while the 
Papacy on more than one occasion appealed to the Lombard 
ruler to suppress the activities of Benevento and Spoleto. 

The object of Byzantium was to keep her hold on the maritime 
districts of Italy, to maintain her officials against the growing 
strength of the landed nobility, and that of the greatest land- 
owner of all, the Papacy, and, finally, to exact the tribute re- 
quired for the defence of those eastern territories where her real 
interests now lay. Only in so far as his support contributed to 
the political and religious unity of the Empire was the influence 
of the Pope anything but an inconvenience to the Roman 

Meanwhile, the settled purpose of the Roman See was simply 
to keep in being. The policy is kaleidoscopic; but the ultimate 
end is constant and unvarying. Time, and the growth of the 

1 It should be noted that these two Lombard vassal states did not act in concert. 

2 This finds expression in the legend which represents Authari (584) as riding 
into the sea at the southern extremity of Italy, and touching with his spear a solitary 
column projecting from the waves as he cried, This shall be the boundary of the 
Lombard realm!' 


Western nations, were on the side of the Papacy. It is not likely 
that this was apparent to the Papal Chancery, but it was, at all 
events, clearly felt that the Pope must not be degraded, on the 
one hand, to the status of a Lombard bishop, or, on the other, to 
that of a Byzantine official The suzerainty of the Emperor is 
therefore punctiliously acknowledged up to the last moment; 
but far-sighted Popes, whose gaze could penetrate beyond the 
Alpine passes to the plains of France, can hardly have been blind 
to the ultimate consequences of their delicate manoeuvring in 
regard to Byzantium. 

The aims of Spoleto and Benevento were simple and immediate 
local independence, and increase of territory at the expense of 
their neighbours, while Prankish policy, before the conquest, was 
determined by three principal motives, internal weakness and 
traditional Lombard friendship counselling non-intervention in 
the affairs of Italy, until the fine threads of papal diplomacy 
drew the invading forces of the Carolings to the gates of Rome. 

Compromise, and a precarious balance of power, the con- 
sequence of internal difficulties or weak rulers, had reconciled 
for a time these warring elements. The successors of Gregory 
the Great had fallen far short of his commanding stature in 
character and statecraft; the Roman Emperors who followed 
Heraclius had been preoccupied with the menace of Islam; the 
Lombard kingdom was troubled by succession quarrels and un- 
ruly vassals, while France was still torn asunder by the struggles 
of the rival mayors. The decisive period in Italy coincides with 
the appearance of strong personalities at the head of affairs 
Popes Gregory II (715-31) and Gregory III (731-41), Leo the 
Isaurian (717-41), the Iconoclast Emperor, and Liutprand 
(712-44), greatest of the Lombard kings. The thunderous im- 
pact of these individual embodiments of conflicting policy lights 
up the stormy landscape of Italy with a revealing flash which 
shows the real transformations that are taking place. 

By about A.D. 700 the Byzantine position was already under- 
mined. Although the higher functionaries were still controlled 
by the Imperial authority, the actual power was in the hands of 
the feudal families oftribuni, whose competence in their districts 
was not only military, but embraced jurisdiction and taxation as 


well. A new organization had arisen, and an Italian revolt 
would be no longer, as in the past, that of a rebellious Exarch, 
but of these local, and far more dangerous, officials. A symptom 
of the true state of things appeared in 692, when the Emperor 
Justinian II, pursuing the traditional Imperial policy, summoned 
the Trullan Council, or Quinisextum (completion of the 5th and 
6th Oecumenical Councils), to standardize belief and practice 
in East and West alike. The Pope refused his assent to its 
decisions, and an important Byzantine officer, the Protospathar- 
ius, was dispatched to Rome with instructions to arrest the unruly 
pontiff. But the days of Vigilius' humiliation at the hands of 
Justinian I 1 were long past. The Italian militia flocked into 
Rome, and to escape their fury the Protospatharius was com- 
pelled to take refuge underneath the Pope's bed. 

Twenty-five years later the crisis was repeated, when the 
Emperor Leo, having successfully defended Byzantium in the 
famous siege of 717-18, ventured to impose new taxation in 
the West. Revolution flamed out in Italy, -and the Exarch, allied 
with Liutprand, the Lombard king a novel combination 
marched against Rome, who had rallied to her aid the Duchies 
of Spoleto and Benevento. The political and economic struggle 
was suffused by a religious glow when the Emperor, in 725, 
proclaimed his Iconoclastic policy. 2 Dogma was a sealed book 
to the Italian populace, but images formed a vital element in its 
devotion, and the controversy became a powerful weapon in the 
hands of the Pope. Leo was soon represented as Antichrist him- 
self. Gregory II, says a contemporary, 'armed himself as against 
an enemy', and addressed the Emperor in language hitherto 
unprecedented in one of his subjects. Nevertheless, the Italian 
revolt was finally put down, though not until one Exarch had been 
killed, and another dispatched from Byzantium to enforce order. 

A further stage was now reached in the severance of East and 
West. The dioceses of Sicily and South Italy, as well as those on 
the eastern shore of the Adriatic, were removed by the Emperor 
from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome to that of the 
Patriarch of Constantinople. This momentous step determined 
the medieval history of southern Italy, which became, during the 

1 Seep. 116. * Q-^ lgi> 


following centuries, increasingly Hellenized in culture, sympa- 
thies, and even population, owing to a considerable inflow of 
Orthodox refugees during the Iconoclast disputes. At the same 
time it reduced the Pope's influence, so far as territory within 
the Empire was concerned, to that of a provincial bishop, con- 
trolling the two themes (now separate and independently 
organized) of Ravenna and Rome. 

The Imperial connexion, however, was still essential to the 
independent existence of the Papacy. Charles Martel had 
declined the invitation to take part in Italian politics, and the 
Lombard kingdom, stronger than ever under the leadership of 
Liutprand, could not be left without a counterpoise. Once more 
the Pope intervened on behalf of his Imperial master, and 
Ravenna, the centre of Byzantine administration in North Italy, 
was saved from imminent capture at die hands of the Lombard 

The death of Liutprand was followed by internal disturbances, 
but when Ratchis, his pious successor, was superseded by Aistulf, 
a strong central power resumed its traditional purpose of the 
complete subjugation of Italy. Rapid developments followed. 
In 751 the year in which Pipin, at papal suggestion, had 
assumed the crown Ravenna fell before the Lombard assault, 
and Byzantine rule in the Exarchate was finally extinguished. 
The next year found Aistulf gathering his resources for an attack 
on Rome. In 753 Pope Stephen crossed the Alps to seek the 
assistance of the Frankish ruler. Seven months later Pipin 
declared war on the Lombard kingdom, and invaded Italy. 
Routed near Susa, Aistulf 's army took refuge behind the walls 
of Pavia. Restitution of Ravenna and papal territory was 
exacted from the vanquished, and Pipin returned home, only to 
be summoned more urgently, in 756, by tidings of renewed 
aggression. Once more Pavia was besieged, and in return for 
peace Pipin was acknowledged as overlord of the Lombard 
kingdom, while the Exarchate was given into the hands of St. 
Peter and his successors in the See of Rome. 

Aistulf died that year, leaving the situation in Italy formally 
unaltered. Pipin's suzerainty over his dominions was accepted, 
but he had not yet conquered them territorially. The Pope had 


become the supreme authority not only in Rome but also in the 
Exarchate, yet both were still nominally a part of the Empire. 
Prankish intervention continued to be an uncertain quantity, 
and meanwhile the Lombard danger to the Papacy appeared 
likely to revive. 

Desiderius succeeded Aistulf, and the Pope's fears were re- 
doubled when Charles, son of Pipin, was married to the daughter 
of the Lombard king. For a few years after the death of Pipin, 
in 768, a German bloc of Franks, Bavarians, and Lombards 
seemed on the point of materializing under the influence of the 
Dowager Queen Bertrada. But Charles's repudiation of his 
Lombard wife in 772 changed the situation abruptly. Two years 
later, at the summons of Pope Hadrian, Charles invaded Italy. 
Pavia surrendered, after a long siege, Desiderius and his family 
were carried into captivity, and by the end of 774 the independent 
Lombard kingdom had ceased to exist. 

Such, in barest outline, are the facts of the Prankish interven- 
tion in Italy. Behind them lies a dark, half-realized background 
of tortuous diplomacy, private ambition, and the interplay of 
two civilizations the Roman, with its long history of legal and 
constitutional concepts, its language redolent of centuries of 
settled government and philosophical distinctions, and the 
German, with its personal loyalties, its tribal memories, and its 
incomprehension of abstract terminology. It is impossible, in 
this strange world of legend and superstition, of ancient, half- 
understood Imperial formulae, to piece together from credulous 
papal biographers and illiterate monkish chronicles a satis- 
factory account of the long-drawn process by which the bishops 
of Rome severed their connexion with the old Roman Empire, 
and placed themselves under the protection of the dominant 
Western power. The significance of each symbol can be end- 
lessly disputed. What was the naturg of the dicio, the authority 
which the Popes claimed to exercise, on behalf of the Emperor, 
over Italian territory? What was the extent of the 'Patrimony 
of St. Peter', the districts whose ownership transformed the 
Papacy about this time into a temporal power? Or what mean- 
ing was to be attached to the successive 'donations' of Pipin and 


Each gesture was now elevated to constitutional significance, 
and subsequent medieval arguments as to the relation of Empire 
and Papacy were based on the sending of keys and banner to the 
Frankish king, the title of 'patrician', or even the holding of a 
bridle-rein. Pictures and legends assumed documentary force. 
The famous story of the Emperor Constantine and the Pope 
Sylvester, 1 which throughout the medieval period formed one 
of the principal arguments for the papal claims, seems to have 
emerged into full daylight at this period, and may perhaps be 
regarded less as a conscious forgery than as a 'rationalization 5 , 
a translation into the terms of current thought, or current piety, 
of the political relation of the Popes to the Emperor at Byzantium. 
Constantine the Great, it was asserted, had not only resigned his 
Lateran palace to the Pope, and given him the dido, or dominion, 
over the West; he had also offered him the diadem and purple, 
in accordance with his future position, while his clergy, who were 
henceforth to.replace the Senate at Rome, just as his subordinate 
bishops occupied the posts of the provincial governors, were 
privileged to use white horse-trappings and to adorn themselves 
with the coveted Senatorial boots. In this extraordinary per- 
version of history can plainly be seen the reflection of contem- 
porary conditions and disputes, the rivalry between the Papal 
Curia and the Byzantine officials in Italy, the contested validity 
of the Frankish 'donations', and the problem of Lombard claims 
to conquered territory. 

Most significant of all, however, is the survival of the Imperial 
idea, as the very substance of this dream-world of Roman 
theocracy. For over twenty-five years the Iconoclast emperors 
had been, in Italian eyes, not only hated tax-gatherers and 
tyrants, but impious schismatics as well. Yet nowhere is there 
word breathed of a possible independent existence for the 
Papacy outside the Imperial domains. Nothing can indicate 
more clearly the fact that to the mind of the eighth century the 
world-empire of Rome, whose head was the Emperor at Con- 
stantinople, was still the sole conceivable pattern of the terrestrial 
order. Only by transferring the emphasis from the person of the 
Emperor to the immemorial (and, from a Roman point of view, 

1 Gf. p. 206. 


the only true) seat of Empire, namely Rome herself, was it 
possible to justify theoretically the coronation of a Western 
Emperor, whose raison d'etre, from the papal standpoint, was the 
armed protection of the Church's interests in Western Europe, 
and, above all, of the ancient capital of Augustus and Constantine, 
the holy and oecumenical see of St. Peter and his successors. 

Meanwhile, though shadowy premonitions of such possibilities 
may be discerned, the immediate situation remained obscure, 
and the next thirty years in fact witnessed a steady lowering of 
the papal hopes which had been pitched so high at the downfall 
of the Lombard kingdom. The balance of power in Italy had 
been upset. Pipin had crossed the Alps on two crusading missions 
to win salvation by his response to the Petrine summons. Charles, 
on the other hand, was now established on Italian soil, a per- 
manent and secular overlord. Spoleto and Benevento, in their 
strivings for independence, had been invaluable, if uncertain, 
allies of the Pope. Now they were vassals of the Frankish ruler, 
and their recalcitrance could bring no profit to the papal 
interests. Henceforward, were Pope and Caroling to fall out, 
there was no possible defender to whom the Church could turn 
for assistance. Nor was this all. Each new and brilliant conquest 
swelled the proportions of Charles's empire, dwarfing into in- 
significance the puny dimensions of the papal State. The union 
of Western Europe under one master brought international rela- 
tions into prominence. Papal claims to Istria and South Italy 
must be subordinated to the diplomatic exchanges of Aix and 
Byzantium, The bitterest of papal complaints concerning the 
intransigence of the Archbishop of Ravenna or the aggression of 
the Duke of Spoleto went unheeded while Charles was campaign- 
ing on the Saxon frontier. Even as head of Western Christendom, 
the Pope was assigned a more passive role than that of the armed 
champion of the Faith, who, with Christiana Religio inscribed on 
his coinage, his weapons sanctified by the prayers of the Church, 
went forth to exterminate the heathen of Central Germany and 
plant new bishoprics beyond Bavaria. Rumours even were 
abroad in the North, voiced by Offa of Mercia, that Charles 
intended to depose the Pope in favour of a Frankish prelate. 
Even the realm of dogma was not secure from the new Western 


autocracy. At the Synod of Frankfort, summoned by Charles in 
answer to the recent Council of Nicaea in the East, the youthful 
Frankish theology found its voice, in shrill, confident accents 
condemning equally iconoclast and iconodule, branding the 
Emperor and Empress as heretics, and even accusing the Greeks 
of a want of critical spirit in regard to the Sylvester legend. The 
Pope, who had approved the decisions of the Nicene Council, 
could make no effective protest, He was even prepared, if 
Charles wished, to declare the orthodox Emperor heretical, 
should the latter persist in withholding the Greek dioceses and 
the South Italian patrimonies which the Pope claimed as his 
own. The subordination of doctrinal issues to the temporal 
interests of the papal State is not less remarkable than the Pope's 
subservience to Charles's momentary anti-Byzantine aims. Not 
since the days of Justinian had the Papacy sunk so low. Even in 
Rome itself, the pontifical authority was not unchallenged. Papal 
elections were constantly accompanied by the fierce street- 
fighting, conducted from fortified palaces, which forms such a 
familiar feature of medieval Italian cities, and the rivalries of 
feudal nobles and Church officials frequently found satisfaction 
in the bloody conflicts of Pope and anti-Pope. 


ON Christmas Day, 800, as Charlemagne, during the celebra- 
tion of the Mass, rose from his knees before the shrine of 
St. Peter at Rome, the Pope placed a crown upon his head, and 
the Roman people saluted him with tumultuous cries: To 
Charles Augustus crowned of God, great and pacific Emperor 
of the Romans, long life and victory! 5 The scene has kindled 
the imagination of historians. In the ancient basilica, glowing 
with candlelight and jewelled vestments, the foremost warrior 
of Europe, conqueror of Saracens, Avars, and Saxons, whose 
realm stretched from the Baltic to the Adriatic shore, from 
Northern Spain to the Middle Danube, seals his protective 
mandate over Western Christianity by the solemn ritual of 
Imperial Rome, and 'in the union of the Roman and the Teuton, 
of the memories and the civilization of the South with the fresh 
energy of the North . . . modern history begins'. 1 

It was, unquestionably, one of the most picturesque moments 
in the history of the Papacy, comparable only, perhaps, for 
dramatic effect, with that other wintry scene in the snowy, wind- 
swept courtyard of Canossa, where a suppliant Emperor waited 
for three days to obtain forgiveness of the Pope. Yet its signifi- 
cance, like that of Hildebrand's triumph, does not lie on the 
surface. The ceremony in St. Peter's was not a constitutional 
solution of the difficulties inherent in Charles's relation to the 
Papacy. It changed nothing in the actual situation and settled 
nothing for the future. 2 But it is, nevertheless, as Bryce showed, 
the beginning of a new age, in that it determined the lines of the 
unending struggle between Papacy and Empire which con- 
stitutes the background of medieval European politics. 

Since the days of Theodosius, when Christianity had become 
the official religion of the Roman Empire, no permanent recon- 
ciliation had been possible between the claims of Church and 

1 J. Bryce, The Holy Roman Empire, p. 49 (8th ed. London, 1892). 

2 For recent views concerning the significance of Charlemagne's coronation, see 
K. Heldmann, Das Kaisertton Karls des Grossen (Weimar, 1928). 


State. Stability could only have been achieved by the complete 
subordination of one to the other. Still less possible was it now 
to demarcate spheres of interest, when the temporal influence of 
the Church was more highly organized than ever before. The 
papal claims can be seen in the legend of the Donation of Con- 
stantine. Charles's position, on the other hand, may be ex- 
pressed in Alcuin's words : 'May the ruler of the Church be rightly 
ruled by thee, O King, and mayest thou be ruled by the right 
hand of the Almighty.' Even Justinian would have approved 
such phraseology, apart from the suggested dualism of Church and 
State. Only a temporary compromise, then, or the overwhelming 
preponderance of one side, could stay the conflict of the spiritual 
and temporal empires. So long as Charles lived, his supremacy 
was not in dispute. Only when his Empire was in process of 
dissolution under the weak rule of his son and grandsons could 
writers like Jonas, bishop of Orleans, and Hincmar, archbishop 
of Rheims, venture to sympathize with theories which set the 
auctoritas sacra pontificum above that of the Emperor. Succeeding 
centuries elaborated with a wealth of precedent this problem of 
the relations between Church and State. Enshrined within a 
general philosophy, it inspired the controversial writings of 
jurists and theologians, and moulded the theme of the greatest 
poem of the Middle Ages. Yet although the more politic Popes 
and Emperors might hesitate to pursue it to its logical conclusion, 
the conflict of two absolute autocracies remained, to be settled 
in practice by arguments of force majeure. 

Such antitheses; however, were not yet clearly formulated, 
and it is even doubtful whether Charles had fully considered the 
constitutional question in regard to Byzantium. There were 
some in the West who affected to consider the Imperial throne 
vacant, since Irene had blinded and imprisoned her son, the 
Emperor, and now reigned alone a woman on the throne of the 
Caesars. Charles's protracted negotiations with Byzantium, 
which ended finally in his recognition as 'Basilcus', or Emperor, 
in 812, in return for the cession of his Dalmatian conquests, 
indicate that he did not share this view. Doubtless the theory 
remained of one single Impcrium Romanum, governed in 
East and West by two co-ordinate Emperors, but the changed 


circumstances of Europe had divested it of any relation to the 
facts. Differences in law and administration, in religion, culture, 
and language, in economic and political interests, had sundered 
the Eastern and Western parts, divided even geographically, at 
this date, by the Slav kingdoms of the Balkan region. Prac- 
tically speaking, the relations of the Western Empire, as it may 
now be called, with that of Byzantium were those of two foreign 
states, concerned for the jealous maintenance of their frontiers 
and the peaceful settlement of disputes, but owning no longer a 
common outlook towards the barbarian. 

Charles's predominant position in Western Europe, which was 
formalized by the Imperial Coronation of 800, had been reached 
by a remarkable and incessant activity not only in internal 
government but in external conquests. During the forty-six 
years of his long reign, no less than sixty military expeditions 
took place, half of which were directed by the Prankish ruler in 
person. Each year, after the general assembly at the Field of 
May, levies of those districts nearest the frontier in question were 
led forth upon merciless campaigns into the enemy's country. 
The king', writes Alcuin simply, on one occasion, 'has gone 
with his army to lay Saxony waste.' 

Many of these expeditions were undertaken in defence of the 
frontiers; Pipin's reduction of Aquitaine led to Charlemagne's 
crossing of the Pyrenees to establish a Spanish 'march', and the 
transformation of Bavaria from a semi-independent duchy to 
an integral part of the Empire involved the destruction of the 
aggressive Avar kingdom on the Theiss. But the greatest con- 
quest of all, that of central and northern Germany, though it 
may have originated in reprisals for Saxon raids upon monasteries 
in the Rhine district, went far beyond its primary purpose. By 
the end of Charles's reign, the frontier had been advanced from 
Rhine to Elbe; the vast territory that lay between them had been 
added to the Empire, and the civil and ecclesiastical organization 
of medieval Germany had received its framework. 

Not much light is thrown on the military aspect of this astonish- 
ing achievement by contemporary records, which are often of 
the nature of official communiques. The country presented great 


physical difficulties, large tracts being covered by forests or 
swamps. Beginning a few leagues from the right bank of the 
Rhine, the Saxon territory extended to the Elbe across the 
wooded plains of Central Germany, the land successively of 
Westphalians, Angrarii, and Eastphalians. On the north, more 
inaccessible still, lay the marshy coastal district between the 
estuaries of Weser and Elbe, and beyond it, at the base of the 
Danish peninsula, was the home of the Nordalbingians, the last 
defenders of Saxon independence. Although punitive raids were 
carried out almost every summer between 772 and 780, the Elbe 
being reached in the latter year, no thought of systematic con- 
quest seems to have existed as yet, apart from the formation of 
a frontier march in the Ruhr district, secured by a triangle of 
fortresses at Heresburg, Syburg, and Carlsburg. The co-opera- 
tion of missionary effort, however, which had already been seen 
in the alliance of Boniface and Charles Martel, 1 was continued, 
and the combination of terrorist marches and Christian propa- 
ganda seems to have Been Charles's regular policy for the cultural 
education of Saxony. An ill-advised policy, whose evil conse- 
quences were soon manifest. Secret rebellion was stirring in the 
German forests. A Westphalian leader, Widukind, arose, and 
found adherents in other parts. Abbeys were burnt, priests put 
to flight, and a considerable Prankish force, marching eastward 
against the Slavs, was cut to pieces on the Weser. Charles now 
decided upon definite conquest. Widukind sought refuge among 
the Danes, and 4,500 Saxon prisoners were slaughtered at Verden 
in cold blood. Strenuous summer expeditions reduced Eastphalia 
to apparent submission, and in 784 Charles actually wintered in 
Germany, preparing for the final campaign. By the end of 785, 
the whole of Saxony had been subjugated, except for the marshy 
coastland on the north, and the territory beyond the Elbe. 

The victory, however, was not so complete as Charles's trium- 
phant letters to the Pope would indicate. Nor were the measures 
now taken of a sort calculated to consolidate his gains. The 
Saxon Capitulary, probably issued on the morrow of the conquest, 
is a remarkable study in coercion. The country was parcelled into 
districts, ruled by counts, who alone, apart from the Royal missi, 

1 Gf. p. 210. 


might convoke any public assembly. But the effective engine of 
Frankish tyranny was the Church. 'Let the priests see to it', 
concludes the Capitulary, 'that these orders are not disobeyed. 3 
By a stroke of the pen, paganism was to be exterminated, and the 
whole manner of Saxon life, from the cradle to the grave, utterly 
transformed. Refusal to accept baptism was punishable with 
death. Eating of flesh during Lent incurred the same penalty. 
Crippling fines were imposed for failure to have a child baptized 
before the year was out, while the funeral cremation of a corpse, 
after the Saxon and Norse custom, was a capital offence. The 
primitive and savage nature of Saxon religion is shown by the 
ordinances forbidding, on pain of death, such practices as ritual 
cannibalism and human sacrifice, and it is all the more surprising 
that it should have been thought possible to apply, in this difficult 
and untamed country, a regime in which the alien parish priest, 
maintained by forced services and tithes from his congregation, 
should wield the confessional 1 as a political weapon to ensure 
submission and loyalty to 'the king and the Christian people' 
that is, the Franks. 

Alcuin had seen the danger, and his disapproval of the 
measures had found utterance in pungent aphorisms. 'It is the 
tithes, men say, that have undermined the faith of the Saxons.' 
'One ought, moreover, to recognize that faith comes of free-will, 
not of compulsion. How can a man be compelled to believe what 
he does not believe? You may force a man to the font, but not to 
the faith.' His warnings were unheeded. For some years all 
seemed to go well, and Saxons were even employed in the 
frontier wars against Slavs and Avars. Under the surface, 
however, sullen resentment smouldered, and at last flared into 
revolt, the flames of which spread rapidly throughout Germany. 
Churches were burnt and plundered, bishops and priests 
slaughtered, and the whole Frankish organization in Saxony 
threatened with destruction. Charles, taken unprepared, was 
unable to concentrate his forces immediately, but during the 
years that followed Saxon resistance was finally broken by a 
series of converging marches, and in 797 even the northern 
coastland, that refuge of escaped rebels, was reduced. At Aix, 

1 Saxon Capitulary, Article XIV. 


that autumn, a new constitution for Saxony was promulgated, 
after deliberations at which not only Prankish counts and bishops, 
but delegates from German territory were present. The brutal 
laws of the conqueror were repealed; henceforward Saxony was 
to be governed by a system analogous to that which prevailed in 
the other Prankish dominions. The final stage was the taming 
of intractable Nordalbingia, but this was only achieved in 804, 
when the last regular campaign of Charles's reign took place, 
by the forcible removal of the population to another part of 
the Prankish realm, its lands being bestowed on the Abodrites, 
a neighbouring Slav people who had proved their loyalty as 

This frontier district of 'Dania', as it came afterwards to be 
called, was the northern outpost of a system of military 'marches', 
controlled by carefully selected governors, who were subse- 
quently known as margraves, or counts (grafs) of the frontier 
(mark}. Although a loose sovereignty was exercised over the 
Slav peoples on the east, the Elbe and Saale constituted the real 
limits of the Prankish dominion. Farther south, Bavaria was 
incorporated in the Empire, beyond which, in Hungary, lay the 
realm of the Avars. Holding, like their nomad predecessors, the 
Huns, a key-position in Central Europe, at the western ex- 
tremity of the great Asiatic steppe-belt, the Avar horsemen had 
for two centuries terrorized the peoples from the Baltic to the 
Peloponnese, and had more than once threatened Byzantium 
itself. At this period, however, their power had dwindled, and 
many of the Slav tribes, on whose labour they depended, had 
thrown off the Avar yoke. But they were still strong enough to 
menace the eastern frontier, and when Saxon affairs allowed a 
brief respite, the armies of Charles proceeded to take the offensive. 
Advancing over the Danube, Eric, Duke of Friuli, stormed the 
great Ring, a circular earthwork which formed the principal 
Avar stronghold, and captured immense treasures of gold, 
precious stuffs, and vessels, the spoils of generations, plundered 
probably, for the most part, from the cities, monasteries, and 
churches of the Byzantine Empire. Subsequent campaigns com- 
pleted the destruction of the Avars. Austria now formed part of 
the Empire, and this region, together with western Hungary, 


began to be populated by Germanic settlers from Bavaria. 1 Even 
the eastern Hungarian parts were henceforth reckoned as belong- 
ing to the Franks, and thus the old Roman frontier-line of Pan- 
nonia was restored after many centuries. 

The huge land-mass of Western Europe, save only Spain and 
South Italy, was once more under a single master, controlling a 
ruling class of Prankish, Bavarian, Aquitanian, Alamannic, or 
Lombard nobles, and with incredible swiftness manoeuvring 
armies from one end of his territories to the other, to push back 
the frontiers of hostile paganism. It was this unifying ideal of the 
militant Christian Empire which gave its prevailing colour to 
medieval civilization in the West, which survived the disintegra- 
tion of the Carolingian realm into a multitude of warring princi- 
palities, and which still, perhaps, continues to operate as a 
certain community of feeling within the European concert of 

Nowhere is it seen more clearly than in the magical halo of 
romance which surrounds the memories of the tragic day of 
Roncesvalles. Charles had entered Spain, at the invitation of his 
Moslem ally, the Arab governor of Barcelona, who was attempt- 
ing to shake off the authority of the Umayyad Caliph at Cordova. 
Charles's alliance with the infidel is significant, as is the fact that 
the first Prankish success was the capture of Pampeluna, a city 
belonging to the Christian kingdom of the Asturias. The expedi- 
tion failed to take Saragossa, and as the retreating columns 
wound slowly through the narrow Pyrcnean passes, its rearguard 
was attacked by the Basques, members of a Christian but hostile 
race, and utterly annihilated. It was not possible to avenge the 
disaster, but subsequent campaigns in this difficult country 
finally established a Spanish March in the district immediately 
south of the Pyrenees. Legend, making free with the historical 
facts, transformed the unsuccessful foray of 778 into a glorious 
crusade. The unlucky rearguard action became a battle in 
which paynim hosts such as no land on earth had seen before 
overwhelmed the Imperial paladins, who fell as martyrs in 
defence of the Faith. Three centuries kter the popular story, 
enshrining not literal truth but the widespread ideal of Christian 

1 Cf. p. 187. 


chivalry, was elevated into the magnificent epic of the Chanson 

de Roland, and became part of the imaginative heritage of Europe. 

The machinery by which Charlemagne controlled the affairs 
of his huge empire was, like that of the Merovings, predominantly 
Germanic. Most of the old institutions survived the local 
government by counts and their subordinate officials, the racial 
law-system and the annual assemblies. Above all, the personal 
and fluid character of Frankish rule, which has already been 
contrasted with the fixed, abstract nature of Roman administra- 
tion, 1 maintained itself even under Imperial conditions. The 
Emperor was still, in a sense, the Teutonic war-chief, surrounded 
by his trusted companions in arms, whose services to him were 
constantly interchangeable. Counts of the Palace might com- 
mand armies on the frontier, a seneschal direct the kitchen, or a 
butler be sent on a diplomatic mission to Bavaria. 

Financial administration was equally primitive. The elaborate 
Roman system of public services had died out under the Mero- 
vings, and taxation had been reduced to its simplest forms 
ferries, tolls, and charges on certain individual tenures. Upkeep 
of roads, bridges, and fortifications was demanded in certain 
cases, and lodging and provision for imperial agents. But the 
copious and detailed regulations, found in the capitularies 
issued by Charles, for the ordering of trade and control of prices 
must not blind us to the fact that the principle of State finance, 
here as with other Germanic rulers, was still that of the king's 
'hoard'. The basis of revenue was the produce of the royal 
estates, supplemented by fines, confiscations, war booty, and 
obligatory 'presents'. Thus the Teutonic war-chief rewarded his 
followers with grants of land, or local privileges of jurisdiction 
and taxation, out of what he considered his own private property. 
The complex conditions created by the fusion of two cultures, 
and the exercise of German rule over countries to which Rome 
had given an advanced civilization, render such statements liable 
to endless distinctions and qualifications. Yet the broad contrast 
remains, between the Byzantine Empire, the direct continuation 
of Rome, with its civil service, its intricate and ordered system of 

1 Gf. p. 203. 


taxation, its standing army and fleet; and the Romano-German 
countries of Western Europe, in which the central power, but- 
tressed by no permanent financial resources or administrative 
organization, rested solely on obligations of personal service and 
personal allegiance due directly to the ruler from each individual 
subject. The growth of intermediate authority, caused by the 
appearance, already visible at this period, of the elements of 
feudalism, was bound to prove ruinous to a monarchy of this 
nature which could not, in effect, delegate any portion of its 
control without losing it altogether. 

The process is well seen in the Carolingian army. Military 
service was probably the heaviest burden imposed on its subjects 
by the State, and the expense of equipment pressed heavily on 
the poorer freeman, who was still, according to the German 
custom, liable to the duty of bearing arms. Measures were taken 
to alleviate his distress; only the richer classes of a district were 
called up for service if the campaign was to take place on a distant - 
frontier, and often two or three smallholders were permitted to 
join together to send one man to the 'host', and provide his 
equipment. But this did not suffice. The conditions which had 
rendered possible, in more primitive times, an armed assembly 
of all the free members of a tribe, roughly equal in economic 
position, had long ceased to exist. Inequalities of wealth had 
increased, and warfare was slowly becoming the exclusive busi- 
ness of the seigneurs, and of those who possessed horse and 
armour. To the latter class belonged those who had received a 
"benefice 5 , or through 'commendation' had entered into a rela- 
tion of vassality to their 'senior' which carried with it the obliga- 
tion of military service. 1 The change by which the army, 
originally a band of freemen bound only by loyalty to the war- 
chief, became a body of seignorial contingents, in which the 
king, as the supreme seigneur, commanded only through his 
subordinate nobles, belongs properly to the centuries which 
followed. But already Charlemagne had recognized the official 
status of the overlords when he ordered the levies to proceed to 
their rendezvous either under the count, the Imperial governor 
of the district, or under the command of their local seigneur. The 

1 Cf. p. 204. 


time was not far distant when vassality would become hereditary, 
when the allegiance of the vassals would be due only to their 
immediate lord, and when, under a weak and unpopular 
monarchy, the nobles would lead their forces to the" destruction 
of the royal authority. 

For the moment, however, the strong personality and unweary- 
ing vigour of Chariemagne maintained strict unity of control 
throughout his wide borders. His counts, ruling each a district 
of the Empire, were authorized to check the proceedings not only 
of their own subordinates but also of the officials of ecclesiastical 
and secular lords. Further, to complete the chain which con- 
nected the ruler with every one of his subjects, the peculiar 
institution of the missi dominici, the king's envoys, was developed. 
The whole Empire was divided into groups of several counties 
(missatica) through which the missi, usually in pairs, an ecclesias- 
tic and a layman, would travel each year e to do justice 3 . Their 
duties covered a wide field. Not only had they to administer the 
oath of fidelity sworn to the Emperor by his subjects, and see to 
it that the revenues from crown forests and domains were duly 
forthcoming, that the capitularies the royal edicts were both 
understood and enforced, crime punished, justice rendered, and 
military service properly discharged; they were also commanded 
to inspect churches and monasteries, 'to assure themselves that 
the priests observe their discipline, the monks follow faithfully 
the rule of St. Benedict, that the Imperial regulations for chant- 
ing the services are carried out, the canonical books are purged of 
errors, the buildings kept in good condition; that the congrega- 
tion attends Mass on Sundays, knows its Credo and Pater Noster, 
and has not been led away by old superstitions'. 1 

A remarkable picture of the progress of these missi has been 
drawn for us by Theodulf, bishop of Orleans, the most accom- 
plished poet of the Carolingian Renaissance, who was himself 
one of their number. His photographic delineation of detail, his 
broad humanity and sly humour, his ripe and sophisticated out- 
look, totally different from the monastic innocence or fanaticism 
of so many contemporaries, inspire confidence in his account, 
which sets vividly before us the conditions in southern France at 
1 Lavisse, Histoire de France, vol. ii, p. 31 9 (Paris, 1903) . 


the close of the eighth century, depicting a further stage in the 
process of transition already recorded by Ausonius, Sidonius 
Apollinaris, and Gregory of Tours. 1 Personal reminiscence is 
clearly visible in his 'Exhortation to Judges', the fruit of experi- 
ence gained on the southern circuit. The contrasts of Provencal 
scenery are sketched in a few touches steep, rocky hills and rush- 
ing torrents, airless and stifling gorges, the deadly, malodorous 
marshes of the coast district, the broad sweep of the Rhone, and 
the noble cities with their high walls Aries, Avignon, Nimes, 
Orange, Marseilles, and many others find mention in the poem. 
Next we are taken 1 to the court-house at Narbonne, doubtless 
some Roman curia which still adorned the former provincial 
capital. Round the lofty entrance has gathered a crowd of 
clamorous litigants. The judge, after attending Mass, enters the 
court, accompanied by his clerk, and the porter, after admitting 
all those entitled to be present, shuts the doors on a throng of 
curious sightseers. Seating himself on the curule chair, sur- 
rounded by the city notables, the judge then selects his assessors, 
and the business of the day begins. Theodulf pauses at this point 
to deliver advice on procedure. The magistrate should not speak 
too fast or too slow; he must direct the pleaders and help them to 
explain their case, encourage the timid, browbeat the insolent, 
silence the loquacious, and dominate the hubbub of shouts by 
the use of his powerful voice. He should, however, keep his seat, 
and refrain from employing a stick on head and shoulders, as 
some impatient justices have been known to do. 

The author, himself of Visigoth descent, and accustomed to 
Roman legal traditions, emphasizes the drawbacks of the Ger- 
manic method of statement and rebuttal by means of oaths. The 
whole machinery of oath-helpers and sworn accusations, filling 
the court with noisy cries of 'yea ? and e nay', seems to him bar- 
barous and inefficient, and he prefers to proceed by 'inquisition', 
carried out through witnesses of proved qualifications, separately 
examined by the judge. Nor can he approve the Germanic 
principle whereby property is held more important than life. 
He is shocked that theft should be punished by crucifixion, or the 
loss of hand or eye, while murder can be compounded for by 
1 See above pp. 31, 68, 194. 


payment of the requisite wergild. Worst of all abuses, however, 
is the universal practice of bribery to obtain a favourable verdict. 
Every one is corrupt the porter, the assessors; even the judge's 
wife has been suborned by an interested party, and hangs round 
her husband's neck, beseeching him, while her nurse and 
impudent little waiting-maid reproach the master for his un- 
kindness to her. 

Theodulf, it is plain, has handled many of the objects thrust at 
him, like so many siege-engines, to batter the ramparts of his 
integrity. Oriental glassware and jewels, fine gold coins bearing 
Arabic characters, figured brocades with oxen and geometric 
patterns of Asiatic design, armour, horses, and greatest treasure 
of all a massive silver vessel, survival of Roman Imperial times, 
with the Labours of Hercules moulded in relief on the outside. 
Suitors of humbler station are no less insistent with offers of 
Cordova leather, bleached or scarlet-dyed, linen and woollen 
stuffs, shoes, hats, gloves, and even face-towels, while one crafty 
fellow, aware, probably, of the literary tastes of the bishop, pro- 
duces triumphantly a roll of purple vellum. All these the honest 
judge will refuse; but lest feelings may be hurt, trivial, friendly 
gifts may be accepted garden and orchard produce, bread, 
eggs, and goats-milk cheese, tender pullets, and small birds, 
'diminutive in body but good eating 5 . 

It is a varied and coloured pageant of mingled races that passes 
before us in the Provencal sunshine. Much of the old Roman 
life has survived; despite Frankish influence, the general pro- 
cedure of the court, with its presiding judge and aristocratic 
atmosphere, its impressive ceremony and complicated case-list 
of contractual and testamentary disputes, is far indeed from the 
primitive German assemblies of free warriors. Yet behind the 
visible world stand already, in full muster, the dark terrors of 
medieval imagination. In a powerful and sombre series of anti- 
theses Theodulf contrasts the gold and silken raiment, the furs, 
perfumes, and delicate food and wine, the spacious dwellings, 
numerous possessions, and thronging clients of the rich man in 
this life with the squalor and confinement, the poverty and utter 
solitude, the horrible dissolution of the grave. His description of 
the Last Day, with its thunder and clanging trumpets, though 


more conventional in treatment, might well serve as text to 
innumerable sculptured reliefs on the portals of later Roman- 
esque or Gothic cathedrals. 

The legendary figure of Charlemagne, a majestic giant with 
beard reaching to the waist, is probably without foundation in 
fact. He appears to have been tall, but not abnormally so, with 
a short neck, prominent stomach, round head, large, expressive 
eyes, a rather long nose, abundant hair; he was clean-shaven, 
except for the customary Frankish moustache. His manner was 
friendly and simple; he could wander among a crowd of his 
subjects at the annual gatherings, and say the right word to each, 
gaining their confidence and gleaning shrewd comments on 
local conditions. Straightforward and sincere, a man of forceful 
and sensuous character, of boundless energy and untiring devo- 
tion to detail, he impressed his contemporaries as much by the 
strength and sweetness of his personality as by the magnificence 
of his achievements. 

A rich store of incident and anecdote has come down to us 
concerning Charles and his Court, for the meagre annals of 
monastic chroniclers are suddenly reinforced by a gallant com- 
pany of poets, striving to depict the scenes among which they 
lived in conscientious imitations of Ovid and Virgil. Even more 
valuable is Einhard's celebrated biographical sketch, which, 
though doubtless open to criticism in detail, 1 carries conviction 
by its mastery of the Latin instrument, which has made pos- 
sible a vivid and personal style, rivalled, perhaps, only by Bede 
during the past three centuries in the West. Charles himself was 
responsible for this remarkable outburst of intellectual energy, 
whose productions bear witness to careful and sound training in 
grammar and rhetoric. He had summoned the foremost scholars 
of Western Europe to his court, from England, Ireland, and 
Lombardy. Peter of Pisa, Paul the Deacon, and their compatriots 
brought the riches of Italian learning to France, and the 'Scots', 
or wandering scholars from Irish monasteries, continued the 
work of their missionary predecessors as educational influences 

1 Its Suetoiiian echoes have aroused suspicion; and it is clear that the author, 
writing after Charlemagne's death, had not been in a position to secure first-hand 
knowledge of certain aspects of his policy. 


in the Prankish Empire. The most important organizing figure, 
however, in the Carolingian Renaissance was undoubtedly 
Alcuin, under whose teaching the ideals and methods of North- 
umbrian culture dominated the revival of learning at the 
court of Charlemagne. The north-east corner of England had 
witnessed, during the eighth century, the brilliant and surprising 
achievements of Anglian civilization. It was the age of the 
Lindisfarne Gospels, with their exquisite script and illumination, 
of the great abbeys and seats of learning at Hexham, Jarrow, 
and York; the age of Bede, the most celebrated writer of Western 
Europe, and of the great Bewcastle and Ruthwell crosses, whose 
hieratic sculptured -scenes, superior in plastic feeling to any con- 
temporary continental work,bear witness to possibilities which will 
not be found hereafter in the linear, story-telling designs of later 
English artists. It was an eclectic culture of rapid growth, caused 
by the convergence of different influences on a vigorous kingdom 
of semi-barbarians. Celtic inspiration may perhaps be seen in its 
decorative motives and the range of its classical studies. Benedict 
Biscop's importation of manuscripts and church ornaments from 
France and Italy to embellish his foundations at Jarrow and 
Monkswearmouth introduced Byzantine characteristics, pre- 
valent at that time throughout the Continent. Alcuin's efficiency 
in organizing schools and curricula suggests the survival of 
Graeco-Roman methods of instruction, passing, it may be, from 
the papal nominees at Canterbury, Hadrian and Theodore, to 
the educational centre at York, while the strange, unearthly 
poetry of the Germanic invaders, with its heroes and monsters, 
its grim hurnour and cryptic dialogue, was still cherished by the 
Northumbrian monks, and passed into Carolingian school-books 
in the shape of riddles and epigrammatic questionnaires, which 
must have delighted the heart of Charles, devoted as he was to 
the saga literature of his Prankish ancestors. With the declin- 
ing fortunes of the Northumbrian kingdom, and the subsequent 
supremacy, first of Mercia, then of Wessex, this culture languished 
and finally disappeared, trodden out under the heel of the Viking 
raider; but already, transplanted to Gallic soil while yet in full 
bloom, it had become the dominant strain in the Carolingian 
reflowering of Western civilization. 



The study of letters, ever since Christian apologists had found 
it necessary to state their position with regard to classical learn- 
ing, had been regarded as subservient to a higher end, namely, 
the comprehension of theology. Charlemagne expressly recog- 
nized this ideal, but political considerations also urged him in 
the same direction, for a higher moral and intellectual standard 
among administrators, both clerical and lay, and a closer organi- 
zation both of Church and State furthered the interests of both, 
combined as they were in the indissoluble unity of his Christian 
Empire. Thus the palace school at Aix became a centre of cultural 
activity, attended by the royal family and the sons of Frankish 
nobles. Its pupils were frequently placed at the head of great 
monasteries, in the Rhineland and elsewhere, which subse- 
quently became homes of art and learning for their districts, with 
libraries, schools, choirmasters, ivory-workers, jewellers, and 
copiers of manuscripts. Theodulf of Orleans organized local 
instruction in his diocese, and in Italy Certain cities were 
already beginning to be known for their educational facilities. 

Their newly discovered medium of expression was applied by 
the court writers not only to rhetorical themes but also to the 
description of their actual surroundings. It is a scene of bright 
colours that they display, of fresh, rather crude beginnings. The 
new palace of Aix stands in the midst of a rich, wooded landscape, 
dotted with herds of deer, and intersected with streams, the 
haunts of various waterfowl. We hear the creak of waggons 
bringing the white blocks, and the noise of stone being sawed, 
as the great church rises, whose gilded dome will presently tower 
above the low, spreading buildings occupied by the king and his 
numerous family, dominating the courtyard, with its equestrian 
statue of Theoderic, greatest of previous Romano-German rulers, 
which has been transported from Ravenna, and the open-air 
swimming-baths, with marble steps surrounding them, where 
Charlemagne and a hundred companions can bathe at once. 
There is profusion of gold massive gold vessels in the church and 
at the Imperial table on feast-days, gold chains and rings, gold on 
baldrics and sword-hilts; the pale golden hair of the princesses 
when they ride out at dawn to the hunting, and the palace gates 
open as the cavalcade streams through, with neighing .of horses, 


deep baying of hounds, and shouts that re-echo in the surround- 
ing forest. Dresses are gay and brilliant, long white and blue 
cloaks, or short woollen mantles coloured in stripes and checks. 
Silks and fine linen are worn indoors, and ceremonial robes and 
vestments are richly embroidered and edged with seed-pearls. 

Envoys of every nation throng the palace, representatives of 
Mercian or Northumbrian kings, Danish or Slav chieftains, papal 
messengers, Byzantine officials, or Moslems from Spain and 
Africa. Even Harun-al-Rashid sends presents from far-off 
Baghdad, and Charlemagne's influence with the Caliph secures 
privileges for the Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem. Exotic wares 
of distant countries are named with precision by writers of this 
time; Asiatic spices pepper, cloves, cinnamon and the like 
are used freely to disguise the flavours of food and wine, or to act 
as aids to the digestion. But the needs of the Imperial household 
are mainly satisfied by the produce of the enormous royal estates; 
fish, game, cheese, butter, mustard, vinegar, honey, wax, soap, 
and wine are all provided from this source, while cucumbers, 
melons, artichokes, peas, carrots and onions, leeks and radishes 
are also mentioned in the Capitulare de villis, which contains 
regulations for the ordering of the royal manors. It is probable 
that Roman methods of cultivation lingered on these lands, some 
of which may well have formed part ofthepatrimonium of Roman 

It is a strange mixture of vigorous, barbaric life and faded 
classical culture. Einhard and his companions study Vitruvius 
as well as Virgil, and columns and marbles plundered from 
Ravenna are inserted in the new buildings, just as Ovidian and 
Suetonian tags figure prominently in the compositions of the 
time. Yet there are signs of activity and experiment in contem- 
porary architecture, as in the exceptional design of Theodulfs 
church at Germigny-des-Pres, the noble pile of St. Riquier, or 
the abbey of St. Wandrille, with its massive tower, crowned by 
a squat, gilded spire, and its spacious refectory, whose walls are 
decorated with scenes of martyrdom and sacred story. Contrasts 
are no less striking in the atmosphere of the Court itself. Pilgrims 
and merchants, soldiers and monks, nobles, scholars, gay ladies 
and handsome pages mingle, not without occasional discord, in 


its precincts. Charlemagne himself goes to school, and curious 
points of etymology or science are eagerly discussed by him and 
his friends. Yet this is but one outlet for his immense physical and 
intellectual energy. Behind all the gaiety and magnificence of 
Aix, the hunting and swimming parties, the intrigues and 
scandals, the serious work of administration goes on, and every 
summer the Prankish horsemen ride out to do battle beyond the 
frontiers of Christendom. 

Conditions in France as a whole must not be inferred from this 
picture of Court life. Charlemagne's strong government main- 
tained order in the country, and trade prospered accordingly, 
especially in the Provencal cities and the Rhine district; but it 
was a trade mainly in luxuries. There was no sudden change in 
the economic system of Western Europe. The clearing of forests 
continued, with consequent increase of arable land; large estates 
gained at the expense of small, and the position of the petty free- 
holder became steadily more precarious. As before, the life of 
the population centred round the manors of lay or ecclesiastical 
magnates; mill, forge and church, local market and court of 
justice bounded the horizon of the inhabitants. 

Charles died at Aix, on January 28, 814, and with the removal 
of his outstanding personality the great Prankish Empire which 
he had brought to completion fell speedily into disruption and 
anarchy. Einhard, writing in the reign of Louis the Pious, his 
successor, looks back already on the days of Charlemagne as on 
an almost mythical Golden Age. The glittering splendour of 
Charles's court, which dazzled the eyes of his contemporaries, 
blinded them to the unstable and evanescent character of his 
Empire, just as the personal dignity and charm, the shrewdness 
and administrative ability of Charles himself concealed from 
them his lack of far-seeing statesmanship. Viewed by the light of 
subsequent events, Charlemagne appears, not as the first Western 
Roman Emperor, descendant of Augustus and Constantine, but 
as the final representative of that long line of heroes and leaders 
of the barbarian wanderings which is headed by Alaric and 
Ataulf. Like them, he respected, and, to some extent, entered 
into the achievements of Graeco-Roman civilization ; but it is 


significant that he shared with Theoderic the Great the inability 
to do more than write his own signature. His limitations, like 
theirs, were those of a conqueror, vigorous in execution, but far 
less successful in consolidating his gains. Charles had extended 
his frontiers to the Elbe and the Danube ; his power reached over 
the Pyrenees, and to the district south of Rome. Yet of these 
frontiers not one, with the possible exception of Saxony, had 
been effectively secured. The lack of a standing fleet and army 
placed the coast-line of France and Italy at the mercy of Northern 
and Saracen raiders, and the same circumstance led in course of 
time to the practical independence of many of his 'marches', 
some of which became the nuclei of future European states such 
as Austria and Prussia. The lack of a considered Mediterranean 
policy, equal in calibre to the mature statecraft of Byzantium, 
prevented Charles from bringing all his forces to bear on 
Benevento which retained its independence throughout his 
reign and thus settling the question of South Italy, which was 
to prove for succeeding ages the thorniest problem in the 
peninsula. The lack of Roman administrative methods, with 
their legions and colonists, their impersonal and interlocked 
bureaucratic machinery, rendered inevitable the disruption of 
the Empire when once the strong hand of its ruler was removed. 
In Italy, where feudal tendencies had already made their appear- 
ance under Lombard rule, the results are plainly seen in the 
strengthening of local powers of jurisdiction and taxation at the 
expense of the central authority. Even the bishops who acted 
as royal missi began to claim these rights as hereditary privileges 
attached to their sees, while the counts were no longer Imperial 
officials, revocable at will, but vassals, holding their possessions 
as beneficia> not as temporary perquisites of office. The Prankish 
and Bavarian nobles settled; in Italy became territorial magnates, 
and three great families emerged supreme in the districts of 
Friuli, Tuscany and Spoleto, 1 Similar disruptive influences were 

1 All three may be regarded as frontier regions, threatened respectively by 
Slavs; Saracen pirates, and Beneventan raids. The Margrave Eberhard, of Suabian 
origin, 'The Shield of Italy', is succeeded by son and grandson in Friuli; the 
Bavarian Counts of Lucca control Corsica, and exercise influence over Luni, 
Pistoia, Volterra, Florence; Spoleto, divided into counties by Charles, regains its 
unity and independence under the noble Frankish dynasty of the Lambertini. 


at work in other parts of the Empire ; Aquitaine and Bavaria 
increased their independence, and in Germany tribal divisions, 
headed by dukes, were destined to form one of the principal 
barriers to the later Ottoman revival of Imperial ideals. 

The Germanic cast of Charlemagne's political thought is made 
evident by his arrangements for the succession. In the Partition 
of 806 there is no vestige of an idea that the Empire is to continue 
after his death. The territories are divided between his three 
sons, exactly after the manner of Clovis and his successors. 1 Two 
of these sons predeceased him, and it was thus a mere chance that 
at Charlemagne's death in 814 the whole of the Frankish con- 
quests remained under one lord. Louis, surnamed the Pious, 
had been invested by his father with the Imperial title in 
the previous year; but one of his first actions was to re-divide the 
Empire among his three sons. The eldest, it is true, became the 
associate and heir of his father's authority, and his two brothers 
were made subordinate to him ; but these latter controlled, in 
practice, the military resources of their kingdoms, and were not 
slow to use them, so that the remainder of Louis's reign was filled 
with their rebellious struggles and the consequent repartition of 

A further stage in the dissolution of the Empire was marked by 
the Treaty of Verdun in 843, by which Charlemagne's grandsons, 
after fierce ci\il war, agreed to the creation of three kingdoms, 
consisting of three long strips of territory running from north to 
south. The eastern strip contained all Frankish possessions east 
of the Rhine ; the middle strip, long and narrow, stretched from 
the Low Countries, through Austrasia, Burgundy, Provence, to 
North and Central Italy. The western strip consisted of the 
remainder of France together with the Spanish frontier march. 
The artificial character of this division needs no emphasis, and 
it was soon illustrated by the dismemberment of the middle 
kingdom at the death of its ruler. By the end of the ninth century, 
the Empire of Charlemagne had dissolved into five separate and 
antagonistic states France, Germany, Italy, and Upper and 
Lower Burgundy. 

r Cf.p. 193. 


A N attempt may now be made to present some picture of the 
jT\changes wrought by four centuries of darkness and confusion. 
Viewed from a height, as if from an imaginary aeroplane travel- 
ling swiftly over time and space, the Eurasiatic land-mass appears 
to be undergoing an intensified phase of those continuous move- 
ments of population which form the substructure of world- 
history. 1 Urged on by primal needs, its peoples surge to and fro 
in sudden waves of invasion or slower tides of penetration, con- 
trolled, like flood-waters, only by unconscious forces and geo- 
graphical obstacles, or by the unequal capacity of different areas 
for supporting human life. A nearer view discloses man's handi- 
work in the creation of artificial barriers. At one extremity, the 
Great Wall of China stands as the symbol of a settled Empire, 
a notable victory in the eternal conflict between the Steppe and 
the Sown Land. At the other, the Roman limes, flanked by the 
frontiers of the Persian Sasanids, obstructs the western movement 
of the Germanic tribes. Between them lie the immense plains of 
Central Asia, breeding-grounds for the nomad hordes which 
sweep out of the desert on to the fertile countries which border it, 
bringing destruction though often, also, an infusion of fresh 
vigour. Storm over Asia is the danger-signal for old civilizations. 
Mongols and Manchus breach the Great Wall, and age-long 
Chinese dynasties are overthrown. Huns and Avars roll through 
the steppe corridor of southern Russia, and the successive shocks 
of their impact drive the Germanic hosts before them to end 
Rome's dominion in the West, 2 and two centuries later to 
hurl the Slav masses with centrifugal force against the mid- 

1 Cf. A. and E. Kulischer, Kriegs- und Wanderzugt t pp. 1-46 (Berlin, 1932). 

2 Rome*s Rhine frontier had held up the Germanic migration for four centuries, 
thus becoming a pressure-area for the westward-surging peoples. This pressure 
had been relieved partly by the peaceful penetration of many Germans, both 
individually and tribally, into the Empire, partly by the migration of great 
eastern Germanic tribes from the Baltic region to the Dnieper and Black Sea. 
These latter, however, were the first to feel the Hun impact, which drove them 
against the Danube frontier. 


continental peoples. Close upon this comes the tide of Arab 
invasion, submerging Syria and Egypt, flowing on over North 
Africa and Spain, and advancing at the same time north-east- 
wards beyond Persia, till it meets the vanguard of the Turkish 
hordes, awaiting their cue for Asia's final entry on the stage of 

Coming closer to earth, we notice the network of Roman roads 
still covering the face of the countryside, but no longer, in A.D. 
800, dotted with the busy long-distance traffic of merchants or 
officials, or threaded with the stone-built inns and posting- 
stations which a Chinese observer, in the first century after 
Christ, marked as characteristic features of the Roman Empire. 1 
Trade is by no means extinct, and it is clear that much of the 
economic structure of Imperial times remains in large districts 
of France and Italy. Even the town, in many instances, retains 
its former importance as a local centre of commerce. Boats pass 
up the Po, Rhine, and Rhone, and the ferries and bridges of 
Roman Gaul and Italy still continue to pay their tribute to the 
Franks and Lombards, though this does not necessarily indicate 
more than local traffic. Numberless examples of such com- 
mercial activity could be given, but a broad contrast nevertheless 
remains between classical and early medieval economic condi- 
tions in Europe, and the researches of Dopsch and other scholars 
have served only to qualify, not to destroy it. During the first 
and second centuries A.D., under the aegis of the Pax Romana, 
the mass-productions of the provinces were freely and systemati- 
cally exchanged by land- and sea-borne traffic from Britain to 
Syria, furnishing the inhabitants or the armies with the ordinary 
necessities of life, corn, wine and oil, metals, lumber, clothes, and 
pottery. The gentleman farmer of Boscoreale, who lived at this 
time on the hills above the Bay of Naples, with his large-scale, 
specialized production of wine for export, to the exclusion of all 
other household produce, his frescoes and bronzes, fashionable 
inlaid furniture and magnificent silver, even his bricks and 
pottery, his hoes and pruning-hooks, his clothes and food-stuffs, 
all bought from the neighbouring city or from overseas, is an 
organic member of a world-wide interdependent commercial 

1 Cf. F, Hirth, China and the Roman Orient, pp. 6, 38 (Munich, 1885). 


system, a typical unit of the Roman civilization. 1 Outside the 
Mediterranean area, that civilization doubtless thinned to a 
surface polish, yet the ubiquitous pottery and metal- work of con- 
tinental origin found on Romano-British sites show its importance 
in everyday life even in this island. 

Very different is the situation round about A.D. 800. Making 
all allowances for variety, one may justly term the prevailing 
system in Western Europe a 'closed house-economy 5 (geschlossene 
Hauswirtschqfi), in which the needs of life were supplied by the 
labour of self-sufficient communities, and 'exchange of goods 
takes a subordinate place to production'. 2 Long-distance trade, 
broadly speaking, is confined to luxuries for Court and Church 
spices, jewels, ivories, incense, works of art. Even in France, 
where most favourable conditions existed for a rebuilding of 
society, the vast, well-organized estates of the royal house or of 
the powerful abbeys (e.g. St. Germain-des-Pres) were in no sense 
factories, as is sometimes implied, producing for outside markets 
wholesale supplies of agricultural and industrial commodities, 
but simply overgrown farms, supplying necessaries for the royal 
or ecclesiastical house and table, just as its Italian patrimonies 
had done for the Roman Church in the time of Gregory the 
Great. 3 This system of 'local horizons 5 was directly due to the 
breakdown of Roman government, communications, and trade, 
and the turning-point may perhaps be placed not in the fifth 
century but rather during the fifty years of anarchy and invasion, 
235-85, which virtually destroyed the intricate economic fabric 
of the Empire. Diocletian and Constantine restored political 
order; they stabilized the currency, fixed the price-level of com- 
modities, and harnessed industry to the chariot-wheels of the 
army and civil service. But they could not replace the delicate 
strands of commercial venture, and the two centuries' respite 
which they gave to the West saw no revival of inter-provincial 
trade, but rather a recession to more primitive conditions of 
isolated self-sufficiency, especially in lands such as Britain and 

1 See Tenney Frank, An Economic History of Rome (and ed., London, 1927), 
ch. xiv, esp. p. 266. 

2 Cf. E. Kulischer, Allgemetne Wirtschaftsgeschichte, pp. 3, 299 (Berlin, 1928-9). 

3 See above, p. 132, and cf. Greg. Epp., passim, and E. Spearing, The Patrimony of 
the Roman Church in the time of Gregory the Great (Cambridge, 1918). 


Northern France, where Celtic organization still survived, in 
contrast with the town-centred districts of the Mediterra- 
nean. 1 

So far as Western trade and industry, then, are concerned, the 
Late Roman and the Early Medieval periods show no definite 
break. Mediterranean shipping, or what remained of it by the 
fifth century, was crippled by the Vandal pirates, and no 
Carolingian revival was possible after the rise of Islamic sea- 
power. 2 The overland route to the east was equally blocked by 
the troops of westward-marching invaders, by the subsequent 
occupation of Hungary by Huns and Avars, and by the immigra- 
tion of Slavs. Certain local products, it is true, maintain or create 
their markets Toledo weapons, Cordova leather, Frisian cloths. 
Northern towns such as Etaples, Utrecht, London, Slesvig, and 
Birka in Sweden find mention as trading centres. Annual fairs, 
as at Troyes and St. Denis, attract pedlars from all countries, 
kings legislate concerning trade, and big towns have their regular 
merchant quarters. The great frontier marts of the Rhine 
district under Roman rule 3 are paralleled by Charlemagne's 
row of licensed trading stations on the Slav boundary. Certain 
long-distance routes, like the Baltic-Black Sea Waterway, show 
increased activity in the eighth century, while Arabs, Jews, and 
Syrians, purveyors of eastern curiosities, are not unknown in the 
Frankish cities. Yet the fact remains that the early medieval 
period shows no regular commercial activity in the West which 
can be called indispensable to the maintenance of society. Condi- 
tions in the Byzantine Empire were quite otherwise, for here 
the Roman economic structure had remained intact, with its 
currency and credit, its markets and commercial legislation, and 
maritime trade connexions with the Far East, severed since the 
second century, had even been restored. 

Agriculture presents a somewhat different picture, though 
here, too, the barbarian invasions produced no real break ; the 

1 Cf. P. Vinogradoff, The Growth of the Manor, p. 66 (London, 1905). 

2 Pirenne's view, that regular traffic from end to end of the Mediterranean con- 
tinued until the eighth century, has been criticized by N. H. Baynes, Journal of 
Roman Studies, xix (1929), pp. 230 ff.. For further bibliography of this question see 
Bj>zantion t vii (1932), pp. 495-509, and cf. also E. Patzelt, Die frankische Kultur vnd 
der Islam (Vienna, 1932). 3 Gf. Tac. Germ. c. 41 and Hist, iv. 64. 


early Middle Ages in Western Europe are a continuation of a 
steady progress, dating from the time of Caesar, in which skilled 
methods of tilling the soil spread outwards from the circle of 
the Roman Empire into the heart of the Continent. From 
the Rhineland and north-eastern France, Roman instruments 
and technique crossed the frontier into Germany, 1 and with the 
settling-down of the barbarian tribes, a pastoral and hunting 
existence was replaced by stable agricultural occupations over 
an ever-increasing part of Europe. Behind this zone lay the dim 
world of marsh, forest, and steppe, of nomad peoples and food- 
gatherers. The boundaries of this world were continually re- 
ceding, but large portions of it lingered behind immense virgin 
forests in France and Germany, shepherd-peoples roaming the 
Balkan uplands. Further diversity was introduced into the 
agricultural map of Europe by peculiarities of soil and climate, 
and by tribal and local custom. Thus North German methods 
can readily be distinguished from those prevalent in South 
Germany, while in England the heavy Saxon ploughshare, turn- 
ing up the deep clay of the unfenced strip-fields surrounding the 
settlements of the invaders, ousted completely the Romano-Celtic 
cultivation, with its small square fields situated on chalky or 
gravel soil, and ushered in the first of the three great transforma- 
tions of our countryside. 2 

But the main line of cleavage in the West is one still visible 
to-day, between the Mediterranean intensive culture, on the one 
hand, with its individually owned patches of corn, vines, and 
olives, its short furrows, and light plough, and, on the other, the 
extensive husbandry of more northern latitudes, where a rough 
climate, a sparse population, and large districts of forest or 
morass produced systems of cultivation in which grazing plays a 
large and often a predominant part, human labour is scarce and 
unskilful, and the heavy plough with its eight oxen traces long 
furrows down the open field-strips. 

1 Orchards and gardens also became known to the Germans by Roman agency, 
as is shown by the Latin-derived names for fruit, flowers, and vegetables. The 
great monasteries continued to impart this knowledge. 

* The enclosures of Jater medieval times, culminating in the eighteenth century, 
are responsible for the second, and the Industrial Revolution, completed in our 
days by mechanized farming, for the third. 


The real importance of these contrasted conditions is psycho- 
logical. The clear-cut Mediterranean system, which prevailed 
in Italy, southern Gaul, Spain, and North Africa under Roman 
rule, with its strong individualism, its self-sufficient, absolute 
ownership of land, lent itself admirably to purposes of taxation 
and definition of status, though even here the rotundities of 
Roman legal phraseology have concealed the rough edges of 
various anomalies. Natural conditions in the North, however, 
produced a co-operative mentality, a world of thought in which 
rights of private ownership were dim and vaguely formulated. 
Rotation of crops, intermingling of strips, common use of wood 
and water, shared pasturage habits of life arising from customs 
such as these created a rural economy more flexible, more 
irregular than that of the Mediterranean area. Its characteristic 
elements persisted in Celtic Gaul and Britain even after the 
Roman conquest (though the centralized villa-system made 
headway in both countries where it found a suitable locality) . 
They may be seen at every stage of Germanic agriculture, from 
i he temporary occupation of land during the migration period 
to the full-fledged developments in Anglo-Saxon England. They 
have left their traces upon village life and the local, self-governing 
institutions of medieval days, and they form an essential com- 
ponent in the growth of the Manor, delaying, and in many cases 
permanently preventing, the complete symmetry which feudal 
influences would otherwise have imposed. 

It is, however, a false simplification to extend this contrast to 
the social evolution of Western Europe during the early Middle 
Ages, and to represent the issue as the submergence of German 
personal freedom and democratic institutions beneath the weight 
of Roman juristic conceptions, founded on centuries of organized 
oppression of the lower classes, and a Mediterranean view of the 
cheapness of human life and labour. It is true that this period is 
marked by a widespread debasement and breaking-up of the 
class of common free men'. 1 Only in the far north, in Norway 
and Sweden, does the bonde, the small peasant, remain inde- 
pendent, able to stand on his rights. In Denmark and England 
he becomes not only a 'husbandman' but a 'bondman'. The 

1 The Cambridge Medieval History, vol. ii, p. 652 (Cambridge, 1913). 


Frankish villanus, member of the villa, is transformed into the 
medieval villein, a man of low origin and condition. In the king- 
doms of Kent and Wessex the intermediate ranks of society 
disappear, leaving a gulf between nobility and churldom. The 
same process is at work elsewhere. Yet it is clear that converging 
tendencies on both sides, Roman and Germanic, prepared the 
way for this 'aristocratic transformation of society'. The break- 
down of Roman government placed power, actual though not 
wholly constitutional, in the hands of the local magnates, who 
became petty sovereigns over their coloni, judging and taxing 
their tenants. The economic depression of the Empire, however, 
while it converted small freeholders into dependants of the land- 
owner, and restricted their freedom of movement, rendered them 
indispensable to him owing to scarcity of labour, and thus gave 
them a bargaining advantage; and meanwhile the improved 
status of the slave, due to humanitarian, and, later, Christian 
ideas and legislation, brought him nearer to the colonus and thus 
contributed to the formation of a large 'half-free* class, the 
laborantes, who, together with the orantes (the Church) and the 
bellantes (the nobility) formed the constituent elements of West- 
European society. 1 

The Teutonic side of the picture, on the other hand, is by no 
means one of ideal primitive freedom and democracy, as enthusi- 
astic historians of the nineteenth century sometimes proclaimed. 
'The armed free tribesman', Professor Vinogradoff points out, 
'was undoubtedly endowed with a rough average of rights, though 
the recognition of his social status had nothing to do with modern 
democratic theories'. The warriors of a primitive community, 
as in early Greece or Rome, were valuable to the State, and had 
therefore to be conciliated; they might even be given a certain 
share in policy. Yet even in the days of Tacitus there were 
inequalities of rank among the Germans ; when the migrating 
tribes settled permanently, these inequalities were perpetuated 
by land-grants. A hereditary nobility might be replaced by a 
nobility of service, as the kings gained power ; but this new 
nobility soon became hereditary, and from the earliest days of the 
settlement, side by side with the free villages, we find a steady 

1 See Appendix B. 


growth in the estates of nobles and abbatial landlords. The 
anarchy of Merovingian days produces a similar effect to that of 
the Roman collapse; free men 'commend' themselves to gain 
the protection of a powerful landowner, while the central power 
is constantly found bartering or giving away its control. Yet the 
process which was to culminate in the feudal system is slow. In 
the days of Charlemagne, the extent of the lands in possession of 
smallholders and free communities largely exceeded that of the 
great domains, and even the latter show clearly the co-existence 
of manorial authority and older popular units and institutions. 

Developed political theories, which arise always from contem- 
porary conditions, are naturally not to be looked for in centuries 
of turmoil, when the de facto maintenance of any authority at all 
is vastly more important than the de jure claims of him who 
exercises it. Yet two main changes may be noticed in men's 
ideas of the State, produced by the break-down of the Roman 
Empire in Western Europe, which were fated to influence the 
whole medieval period. The first is the altered relation of the 
secular and ecclesiastical authorities, which becomes fully 
apparent only after the dissolution of the Carolingian Empire. 
The second is the prevalence of habits of thought derived from 
barbarian tribal conditions. 1 The mixed populations, of varying 
degrees of culture, in the Romano-German kingdoms provided 
difficult problems of administration, which were solved by adopt- 
ing the curious principle of the 'personality of law 5 . 2 Each man 
lived by the law of his people, Roman, Burgundian, Visigoth, 
Bavarian, Salian or Ripuarian Frank. 'Of five men sitting or 
walking together', Agobard of Lyons exclaims, pleading for 
a unified legal system in the Prankish Empire, 'none will have 
the same law as his fellow'. 3 The process of fusion between these 
systems is a mirror of the larger cultural development of Western 
Europe. Personality, as a principle, gives place eventually -to 
territoriality, but not before it has served its purpose in ensuring 
the survival, during a critical transition period, of legal customary 
variants. 'Custom', in fact, comes to be regarded as the ultimate 
sanction, and in this we may recognize the triumph of 'the ancient 

1 C. H. Mcllwain, The Growth of Political Thought in Europe, pp. 171 ff. (London, 
1932). 2 Cf. p. 66, above. 3 M. C. H. Legg, iii. 504. 


Germanic idea. of a tribal law, immemorial in character, and 
binding upon king and people alike'. 1 Closely connected with 
this notion of the supremacy of law is that of the kingship 'based 
primarily on service to the nation 5 . 2 This principle of responsible 
sovereignty, which contests with its Asian rival the principle of 
the monarch ruling by divine right, mystic, sacerdotal, solutus 
legibus, vice-gerent of God for the future of European govern- 
ment, is essentially Germanic, though by no means a new-comer 
to the West. For it is inherent also in Republican Rome, 3 whose 
delegation of the supreme power to elective officials survived 
far into the Empire under the form of the lex de imperio arid the 
ceremonies of acclamation by army and people which legitimized 
a new emperor. Even in later Byzantine times, when the Hellen- 
istic and Hebraic conceptions of monarchy appeared to have 
finally proved victorious, Roman ideas lingered on still in 
Imperial titles and traditional duties and virtues associated with 
the ruler. In the West, the Church Fathers had spoken with 
divided voice, according as they inclined towards Old Testament 
theocracy or the Ciceronian view of the State, 4 and the assertion 
of Gerjnanic influence at a critical period was thus necessary for 
the continued union of .power and responsibility which made 
possible the subsequent Western constitutional developments. 

All the more necessary, perhaps, in view of the momentous 
change which Constantine introduced, when by his identifica- 
tion of the interests and unity of Christianity and Empire he took 
the Church!, as it were, into partnership, and intensified the 
hieratic cast of governmental authority. By the grant of jurisdic- 
tion to the Church, it became henceforth an organ of administra- 
tion, and the gaps left by the gradual ousting of Imperial control 
in Italy were steadily filled up by the developing Papal organiza- 
tion. The barbarian rulers, despite their independent and some- 
times threatening attitude towards the papal claims, likewise 
made use of the Church to serve their national ends, for only in 

1 Cf. Tac. Germ. c. 7. 'Nee regibus infinita aut libera potestas.' 

2 Mcllwain, op. cit., p. 175. 

3 Isidore of Seville, in the seventh century, notes the old Roman nursery rhyme, 
'Rex eris si recte fades, si non fades, non ens'. For an earlier version cf. Hor. Ep. 

i.i. 59. 'At pueri ludentes "rex eris" aiunt, "Si recte facies" '. 

4 Cf. A. J. and R. W. Carlyle, History of Medieval Political Theory in the West, vol. i, 
ch. xviii (London, 1903). 


its ranks did they find sufficient knowledge of Roman methods to 
cope with the complex problems of a civilized community. The 
turning-point in this process is reached in the remarkable 'change 
of heart' in regard to the 'barbarians' which Gregory the Great 
introduced into papal policy. To the minds of Leo I, Augustine, 
and Jerome, the mission of the Church might be universal in 
theory, but in practice it was limited by the boundaries of the 
Roman Empire. 1 Even to Salvian, that eulogizer of primitive 
German virtue, the invaders were a scourge of God, a people 
whose clothes and smell put them outside the pale of civilized 
society. Gregory's great missionizing and diplomatic activities 
in Western Europe ended all this, and prepared the way for new 
and undreamed-of possibilities, and with the growth of papal 
influence in the new kingdoms eventual severance from Byzan- 
tium, the Imperial world-centre, gradually became a conceivable 
thing. In Spain, the Visigoth realm was controlled, during the 
last years of its existence, by episcopal councils. In England, the 
Anglo-Saxon rulers relied on their spiritual advisers for assistance 
in policy and law-making. In France, ecclesiastics soon entered 
the Prankish service. From Clovis to Charles Martel, conquest 
was made possible by their co-operation. Charlemagne, con- 
tinuing the Merovingian tradition, maintained the position of the 
Church as an essential instrument of government, though sub- 
ordinate at all points to the royal authority. Ecclesiastical abuses 
were to be removed, so that the Church might fulfil her chief 
function in christianizing the manners and outlook of the Frankish 
subjects. Education, administration, even repression (as in 
Saxony) were placed largely in the hands of ecclesiastics. The 
theocratic character of Charlemagne's system is as strongly 
marked as that of Justinian and his successors. Alike in Eastern 
and Western Europe, the ninth-century Emperors govern their 
dependants by divine mandate, and the life of the common man is 
overshadowed by the rules and observances of the State religion, 
to an extent that would probably have astonished a Roman 
citizen of the pre-Constantinian era. 

The character of the cultural transformation produced during 

x Cf. E. Caspar, Gcscfachte des Papsttoms, vol. i, p. 558 (Tubingen, 1930). 


these centuries by the collapse of Roman government in the 
West may perhaps be described as a crumbling and disintegration 
of the topmost layer of civilization. Fragments ,of this layer 
survived, in some places almost intact, but no longer as con- 
stituent parts of the universal pattern. Older, regional traditions, 
obscured for centuries by the standardized design created and 
superimposed by the Roman Imperial machine, emerged once 
more on the surface. New and revolutionary ferments, long 
working underground, became apparent in their effects. 

Economically, the world- wide nexus of trade dissolves, and is 
replaced by a system of local self-sufficiency. Politically, the 
Western provinces fall asunder, into Germano-Roman kingdoms. 
United for a brief space under Charlemagne, they split again into 
a number of antagonistic States. Educationally, the disappear- 
ance of Roman administration removes the incentive to a 
rhetorical training; schools and universities are extinguished, 
together with the political and economic system which supported 
them, while the leisured classes, whose exchanges of elegant and 
allusive correspondence had preserved the social status of litera- 
ture, cease to exist as a European intelligentsia. Many, no doubt, 
perished in the invasions, or sank to a peasant level. A large 
number of noble families migrated to Byzantium. Others, 
isolated in their fortified manors, occupied themselves with the 
chase, or entered the profession of arms, the only lucrative calling 
at such a time. Monasteries offered a refuge to the few, but 
neither the, monastic life nor the service of the Church provided 
opportunities for secular learning. 

Artistically, the official Empire style, seen at its worst in the 
mass-productions exported to outlying provinces ('Samian' ware 
and the like) declines in company with the causes of its creation 
and distribution, and local, non-Roman traditions resume their 
sway in certain districts flexible Celtic patterns, massive Teu- 
tonic jewellery, and the fanciful designs of the Scandinavian crafts- 
man in wood and metal. In Rome itself, the change from ancient 
to medieval may be seen by a comparison of the Trajanic reliefs 
(c. A.D. 101), formerly part of the orator's rostrum in the Forum, 
with those, similar in subject, on the Arch of Constantine 
(c. A.D. 315)^ in which typical 'Byzantine 5 characteristics are 





already apparent. 1 In the former, the Emperor Trajan and his 
attendants are depicted with all the representational skill, the 
delicate handling of drapery, the subtle recession of successive 
planes, which are associated with the classical Graeco-Roman 
style. In the latter, Constantine presides, a stiff hierarchical 
figure, over the dwarfed and lumpish rows of his senators and 
subjects. The contrast is striking. Coarseness and crudity of 
technique are visible, formal and over-symmetrical composition, 
a lack of plastic sense, and ascendency to 'sketch with the chad's 
details being left to be supplied by the addition _of colour a 
turning, in fact, from sculptural methods to those of the painter. 
But it is a mistake to regard this either as 'decadence' 2 or. on the 
other hand, as an inherent developme ? T?^ r f''" < ^ 1 y flTlia1lf%fy 
of evolution, conditioned by te^T-mir^l pr^bkms tn. h* snlw^a 
The true 'decadence' of ancient art is to be found in those photo- 
graphically realistic statues of rheumatic fishermen, emaciated 
crones and brutal pugilists which satisfied Roman aesthetic 
demands in the third century. 4 A decline both in skill and in 
public taste may be inferred, certainly, from the Constantine 
reliefs, but the change lies deeper than this. Jt. is a rh^ngp. nf 
spirit, of outlook, pei /ading every aspect of life, which here seeks 
expression, hesitatingly at first, but evolving later into the trinrfl- 
phant certainties of Ityzantine and Romanesque. The pre- 
dominant character of this change is Oriental. In religion, it 
appears in the prevalence of mystery-cults, and in the final 
victory of the greatest of these, Christianity. In thought can be 
traced a concomitant development of Eastern symbolism. In 
art, the ChristianjjacLmvstical oujlook-^ra^fnnm frftm within 
the products of classical tradition and is rpi^fnrrftjl fropn yvithnnt 
bjilhe material influence of Asiatic styles and techniques. 5 With 
the Empire centred at Byzantium, this influence becomes 

1 Cf. H. Lietzmann, 'Das Problem der Spatantike', Sitz. d.prtuss. Akad. d. Wiss., 

1927, PP. 342 ff- 
3 Cf. L. von Sybel, Christliche Antikc> p. 10 (Marburg, 1906). 

3 Cf. A. Riegl, Spdtromische Kunstmdustrie vol. i, pp. 45 ff. (Vienna, 1901). 

4 See A. W. Lawrence, Classical Sculpture, p. 370 (London, 1929). 

5 Symbolism is, of course, by no means incompatible with the most uncom- 
promising realism. This is seen especially in the Antioch school. The influence of 
Semite art on Christian iconography is already visible in the Dura frescoes of the 
third century A.D. 


steadier and more powerful, and the cultural and economic 
supremacy of the capital results in the dispersion of its artistic 
output over the whole of barbarized Europe, to serve as models 
or correctives in the development of medieval art. 

Similar tendencies the emergence of old popular forms, the 
action of new ferments can be seen at work in the transforma- 
tion of literature and language. The aristocracy of Greek metres, 
with their delicate music of quantitative syllables, had main- 
tained a precarious hold over Latin verse, the natural roots of 
which were fixed deep in the stressed peasant rhythms of thresh- 
ing-floor, spinning-wheel and country dance, the gnomic saws of 
the rustic oracle, and the heavy tramp of the marching legionary. 
Fragmentary snatches of this folk poetry can be caught under- 
neath the swelling chorus of Imperial singers a children's 
rhyme, a ribald catch of Caesar's veterans, an amatory line 
scrawled on the street-wall of Pompeii. During the second cen- 
tury this accentual verse was adopted by a group of literary 
innovators, and from this movement blossomed the exquisite 
Pervigilium Veneris. The weakening of cultural standards en- 
couraged such developments, and the new spirit discovered a 
congenial vehicle of self-expression in the broad emotional effects 
of strongly stressed rhythms. Spain and Africa were fruitful soil 
for this metrical evolution. The crude anti-Donatist songs of 
Augustine, written for massed community-singing, with their 
rough scansion and shouting choruses, are significant of the 
changed conditions, while the stately processional hymns of 
Prudentius, for all their mastery of quantitative subtlety, cannot 
disguise the growing insistence, beneath wavering melodies and 
shifting harmony, of the regular beat, the clockwork rhythm of 
the popular trochaic. Rhyme and assonance, features already 
familiar to folk-poetry, 1 become prominent at the same time, 
and the creation of medieval hymnodic forms is thus practically 

Prose followed the same course, though the absence of fixed 
scansion prevents us from following its successive stages. The 
stressed accent and the enfeeblement of quantity, however, are 
seen in the dausulae, or formal cadences at the end of sentences 

1 Cf. E. Norden, Die antike Kunstprosa, p. 81 1 (Leipzig, 1898). 


and paragraphs, used by the later fourth-century writers, and the 
transition from metrical to rhythmical prose is accomplished by 
the time of Gregory the Great. 1 

The spoken language itself undergoes a parallel transform^ 
tion. Here, once more, the basis of the, rhangp. is pgyr.^.olosricaL 
^Caution is necessary in dealing with a medium so fluid and 
evanescent, but certain persistent tendencies are observable. 
VulgaxJLafin, fundamentally speaking, is to be distinguished 
from high literary L?.tin by the, quality of the thought which it 
expresses. Though not uninfluenced by the Hellenic discipline, 
noticed above, which pervaded educated speech and writing, 2 
its spirit remained impervious to the external impress of Greek 
antiquity, and it thus continued to be the property of the 
common folk, which survived the political and economic debacle 
of the West, and was subsequently differentiated into the various 
Romance 1/anguages. 'Hellenized Latin', on the other hand, 
'thanks to its literary mummification, could neither live nor die 
after the downfall of the Roman state. As "Middle Latin" it led 
a supernatural existence in the Church, the school, on paper, on 
the tongues and in the ears of scholars.' 3 Goliardic songs brought 
it nearer to earth, but it remained poised in mid-air, above the 
currents of everyday talk which are the effective forces in the 
development of language. 

Meanwhile popular speech T freed from the constant pressure 
of alien modes of thought, lay open to the twin influences of this 
time a revival of local tradition, and the action of new stimuli. 
Changes in vocabulary and syntax reflect the corresponding 
change of mentality. With the disappearance of the aristocratic, 
personal, Stoic attitude to life, there goes also the variable word- 
order and studied emphasis, together with the inflexions which 
made them possible. In their place come the impersonal style, 
aiming at communication rather than self-expression, the over- 
statement characteristic of uneducated speech, and the altered 
meaning of the future, which is no longer accepted with resigna- 
tion or determined resolve, but becomes the object of passionate 

1 Cf. A. C. Clark, The Cursus in Medieval and Vulgar Latin, p. 1 3 (Oxford, 1910). 

2 The sermo urbantts, as opposed to the sermo plebtius or vulgaris. Cf. F. F, Abbott, 
Classical Philology, 1907, pp. 444-60. 

3 Cf. K, Vossler, The Spirit of Language in Civilization, pp. 57-75 (London, 1932' 


hopes and fears. The contrast is seen fully in the gulf that divides 
the individual, monumental style of the great classical writers 
from the subtle variations on a common idiom which distinguish 
their present-day French or Italian successors. 'Compared to a 
page from Livy, Tacitus, or Virgil, all modern Romance . . . 
seems like a pamphlet compared to a bronze tablet.' 1 

Greek development in literature and language brings out even 
more clearly the tendencies already outlined. Studied utterance 
had always been regarded as a work of art, and the substitution, 
for certain purposes, of prose for poetry only gave scope for 
completer artistry. The great age of Athens created a brilliant 
prose style which dominated Greek writing for 1,500 years, 
resisting successfully the Oriental influences which entered with 
the rule of the Diadochi, surviving the Roman conquest, and 
with comparatively little change adopted by the long line of 
medieval Byzantine authors. 2 The spoken word, however, was 
not equally immune from the effects of political and economic 
developments, and changes can be traced here parallel to those 
which took place in Latin. A common speech, consisting largely 
of debased Attic, submerged the local dialects, and served as a 
medium of intercourse throughout the Hellenized East. With 
this dilution of Greek culture among non-Greek races came a 
more serious danger for the language; pronunciation began to 
alter, the sonorous s vowels of the Periclean age thinned to the 
'^-sounds' of later Greek, a process which affected even the 
consonants, and finally, with the entrance of an alien stress- 
accent, the distinction between long and short syllables was 
obscured. 3 

These changes in the spoken language^ removed the very 
ot classical Greek poetry "andprose, which were 


based_on quantity anao!rmUsic'aTpitch. Henceforth the breach 
widrns betwmu^opular speech and the "learned 9 ail&^IVcrsifisaa 
tion and rhetoric, where century after century, in the sheltered, 
conservative circles of university and official life the tradition 
was never broken as it was in the West the prosody and intona- 
tion of earlier days were carefully studied and appreciatively 

1 K. Vossler, op. cit. 2 Gf. E. Norden, op. cit., pp. 367 fF. 

3 For an admirable sketch of these developments cf. H. Lietzmann, op. cit. 


admired. It may be surmised that the crowded and fashionable 
congregations which Chrysostom and Basil drew to their churches 
in the fourth century A.D. were attracted not only by the brilliant 
delineation of contemporary manners and the fragments of Greek 
botany and zoology which these preachers used as the vehicle for 
moral instruction and scriptural exegesis, but also by the skilled 
employment of the whole orchestral resources of classical oratory. 
Yet even the clausulae of Basil's periods show signs of the new 
stress-cadence, and by the end of the century it had become the 
prevailing form. 

Poetry in the old metres, with its numbered syllables and strict 
rules of quantity, remained impervious to the 'dynamic' or stress 
accent, though its artificial character is clear from the occasional 
slips made by practitioners after the fourth century; but the 
spirit of Christian mysticism found an outlet in the creation of new 
rhythms, inspired by Syrian models, which pervade the hymns 
of this period, with their Oriental refrains and ecstatic fervour, 
reaching their highest development in the magnificent liturgical 
chants of Romanus, which echoed under the great dome of 
St. Sophia. 

The rich heritage of Hebraic thought and worship which had 
been taken over by the Church during her earlier centuries of 
existence profoundly influenced the formation of the Christian 
liturgy. But this heritage is itself only one manifestation of a 
religious consciousness, an approach to the mystery of the 
Unseen shared by the dwellers in the Near East, whose origins 
must be sought far back in the immemorial traditions of Egypt 
and Babylonia, 1 The passive, brooding contemplation of the 
Divine essence, the eager- abandonment of individuality which 
distinguish Oriental religiosity from the active, concrete, humanis- 
tic conceptions of Hellenic thought demanded for their expres- 
sion new emotional rhythms, a new vocabulary, and even a new 
structure of the sentence. In the poetry and prayer-ritual of the 
Christian Church can be traced features common to the Old 
Testament, the Koran, and the magical papyri, and just as in 
the artistic sphere the revolutionary content transfigured the 
Graeco-Roman form which conveyed it, so here the negative, 

1 Cf, E. Nordcn, Agnostos Theos, p. 222 (Berlin, 1913). 


non-rational attributes of Deity, the preoccupation of the 
worshipper, not with the activities, but with the nature and being 
of God, found utterance in participial and relative constructions, 
in strange invocations and free-moving rhapsodies which finally, 
in the case of the liturgy, resulted in the creation of a new form 
of Greek poetical prose. 

Oriental influence upon the art, religion, and literature of the 
Mediterranean world exercised a constant pressure, varying only 
in intensity, which stretches back far into prehistoric times. 
Mystery cults, ultimately of Eastern origin, entwined themselves 
early into the structure of Greek religion, and the emotional, 
esoteric rituals of Egypt, Asia Minor, and Syria, introduced, as a 
result of Roman conquests, by legionaries, slaves, and merchants, 
spread rapidly throughout the West, and captured the imagina- 
tion of the populace. 1 Yet though Roman belief succumbed so 
completely to Asiatic modes of worship, the religious psychology 
of the West retained its distinct character, and more than one 
aspect of the dogmatic controversies of the early Christian 
centuries can be explained by the contrast, not only between the 
legalistic, concrete attitude of Latin theology and the speculative, 
metaphysical proclivities of Greek writers, but between the 
emphasis laid by the West on the personality and saving activities 
of Christ, and the passionate absorption of Eastern thought in the 
supra-temporal essence of the Divine nature. 

Similar differences are displayed by the West in its use of 
symbolism and allegory, which may, broadly speaking, be taken 
as the characteristic mental processes of this period. The naive, 
often grotesque interpretations of scriptural passages to which 
Gregory the Great lent his authority bear somewhat the same 
relation to the subtle and poetic images of Origen that the riotous 
fantasy, the literal picturesqueness of Romanesque sculpture and 
miniatures bear to the more delicate, abstract, and restrained 
treatment of symbols in Byzantine art, where, for various reasons, 
the repertory of the craftsman was more strictly limited both in 
subject and style. To look behind language, behind the visible 
world apprehended by mind and senses, to another, secret 

1 The writings of Firmicus Maternus present a striking picture of the real 
character of popular paganism in the fourth century A.r>, 


language, a secret world known only to the initiate, is the privilege 
of the poet and mystic in all ages. Plato had used the myth, 
conscious of its limitations, to shadow forth the ineffable; others 
before him had sought to conserve the hallowed expression of 
outworn beliefs by allegorizing its grossness or absurdity. The 
subjective method, however, is a dangerous one; lacking objective 
controls, the individual lies open to all the hidden currents of his 
time. Primitive animism the conviction of the mana residing in 
words, actions, and inanimate objects now recrudescent in a 
revival of sorcery and divination entered into Neoplatonism 
when its poetic powers of organization weakened, and the dis- 
tinction between the symbol and that which it represented was 
disastrously obscured. 1 Magic, which is fundamentally material- 
istic, destroyed the spiritual basis of allegory, and the decay of 
intellectual and imaginative energy ruined the appositeness of 
the symbol. 2 Philo, the Hellenized Jew, endeavoured to recon- 
cile the Septuagint with the conceptions of his time by an essen- 
tially prosaic perversion of the literal meaning; the ewers, basins, 
and other furniture of Solomon's temple, for example, signified 
various virtues and ornaments of the devout soul. His methods 
were eagerly copied by Christian commentators, and Augustine 
himself, seriously arguing against a Manichee who had ques- 
tioned the ethics of the story of David and Bathsheba, can assert 
that David is Christ, Uriah is the Devil, and Bathsheba, taking 
her bath on the roof-top, represents the Church, soon to become 
the heavenly bride, washing herself free from the stains of the 
world below. The legitimate use of symbolism, however, was 
not forgotten. Origen, a true poet and possibly the greatest of 
early Christian thinkers, harmonizes the discrepancies between 
Old and New Testaments, between the Synoptists, between the 
writings of Paul and of his colleagues, by the musical metaphor 
of a symphonic composition; 3 discordant notes can be reconciled 

1 Cf. A. von Harnack, History of Dogma, vol. ii, p. 144 (Edinburgh, 1907). *What 
we now understand by "symbol" is a thing which is not that which it represents; 
at that time [second century A.D.] "symbol" denoted a thing which, in some kind 
of way, is that which it signifies. 1 

2 Cf. the perversion of Platonic thought in Ecclesiasticus xxxiii. 15, 'Look upon 
all the works of the Most High; and there are two and two, one against another*, 
xlii. 24, 'All things are double, one against another.' 

3 See his remarkable orchestral image in Philokalia, vi. 2. (P.O. xm, col. 832). 


by the exercise of what amounts to poetic imagination, and such 
primitive conceptions as the literal Six Days of Creation made 
acceptable by a mythical interpretation. The method gave scope 
for the intelligence, and, in the hands of equally brilliant suc- 
cessors, promise of future development: but this was not to be, 
and the growth of anathema, the stiffening of dogma, and the 
adoption of non-rational formulae combined to make dangerous 
the path of an independent reasoner. 1 With the break-down of 
general culture, the sense of the word, unchecked by reason, 
gradually retreated into fantasy, and on this the Middle Ages 
reared its structure of thought. Jerome's scholarly collation of 
Septuagint manuscripts still maintains the importance of the his- 
torical fact, as distinct from its interpretation, but to the followers 
of Alcuin, mindful of the precepts, rather than the practice, of 
their teacher, not even the text of the Bible itself is sacred: in their 
passionate anxiety to btrip off the material husk and extract from 
the Scriptures their spiritual meaning, 2 they are prepared to alter 
and interpolate in accordance with the views of Patristic com- 
mentators. 3 Pagan authors fared no better, their contents being 
recklessly allegorized for purposes of edification. Even to the 
opening words of the Aeneid, 'Arma virumque cano', a moral 
twist was imparted. 'Arms' signified virtue, it was held by some, 
and 'man' wisdom. 4 Such methods were actually a mistaken 
short cut to the distant goal which the Church had set before 
herself the arduous remoulding and gigantic synthesis of all 
extant knowledge in a universal and self-consistent scheme of 
Christian philosophy. The process had been begun by the great 
thinkers of the early centuries, but owing in considerable 
measure to the waywardness of symbolic fancy no general 
advance was subsequently made for some 600 years, at which 
period the movement started (not without inspiration from 
Moslem Spain, where Arabic translations had preserved certain 
aspects of Greek thought) which culminated in the Summa of 

See Appendix B. 

Gf. Bede, 'retecto cortice litterae, altius aliud et sacratius in medulla sensus 
spiritualis invenire*. 

3 Cf. H. H. Glunz, History of the Vulgate in England from Alcuin to Roger Bacon 
(Cambridge, 1933). 

4 Radbertus (M.G.H. Epist. vi. 6-16, 143) is not content even with this, but 
desires to expunge Virgil from the list of authors to be studied. 


Thomas Aquinas, and in the supreme imaginative expression of 
medieval Christianity which is the Divina Commedia. 

During the ages of transition, the Western Church as a whole 
definitely feared and distrusted the pagan learning; there were 
notable exceptions to this attitude, but the uncompromising 
tradition of Tertullian proved stronger, and finally prevailed 
with the influence of Gregory. In a natural reaction from earlier 
depreciation of the 'Dark Ages 5 , stress has recently been laid on 
the 'humanism' of the medieval Church; but it is not difficult to 
overstate this view, for it is certain that the sole purpose of educa- 
tion at this time in the West was to train ecclesiastics for the 
performance of their duties. 1 The knowledge required for an 
understanding of the Latin services, and in the case of more 
advanced pupils for the study of Christian controversial and 
expository literature, the computation of Easter and other 
festivals, the legal and administrative system of the Church, 
provided in many cases an admirable curriculum, and the 
organized life of the monastery, with its regular hours, its library, 
and its economic security, gave opportunities for the preservation 
of culture in dangerous times which no other institution could 
have afforded. But the extraordinary achievements of scholars 
like Bede and Aldhelm, and, judged by contemporary standards, 
the high intellectual level of Canterbury, York, Wearmouth, and 
Jarrow in seventh-century England, and even of lesser centres, 
Malmesbury, Nursling, and Bishops Waltham, must not blind 
us to the fact that our gratitude for the preservation of classical 
literature would have incurred the censure of the most orthodox 
ecclesiastical authorities, 2 nor cause us to minimize the great 
gulf which divides the learning of this age from that of Jerome, 
and still more that of Origen, when all the resources of ancient 
civilization were still available. For several centuries these 
resources had been declining; and the Church further reduced 
and diluted the supply. Creative thought had long ceased; the 
taste of the time had turned to epitomes, anthologies, grammars, 
and works of reference. Genuine mastery of the Greek language 

1 Cf. M. Roger, V Ensdgnement des lettres ctassiques en France fAusone 6 Alcuin, 
pp. 437 ff. (Paris, 1905). 

2 i.e. Gregory the Great and his influential school. Cf, Appendix B, 


disappeared wholly from the West; after Boethius there was no 
real assimilation of Hellenic philosophy. Decorative Greek 
characters, isolated passages, and words from glossaries are found 
in Irish manuscripts, and Bede, exceptionally, shows some ac- 
quaintance with the Septuagint, 1 but of a creative use of Greek 
there is no indication. Passive encyclopaedists, like Isidore of 
Seville and Raban Maur, are the characteristic product of the 
early Middle Ages an indication of the stern necessity for the 
preservation of extant knowledge in face of the barbarism which 
threatened to engulf it. 

The close of the sixth century witnessed a definite break-down of 
culture in France and, to a lesser extent, in Italy also. Gregory 
of Tours, the foremost writer in Gaul, was not employing a figure 
of rhetoric when he bewailed his lack of grammar and education, 2 
and the generations which followed him were plunged into yet 
^deeper abysses of barbarism. 3 Literary Latin, the medium of 
thought, degenerated into a strange jargon, as may be seen in the 
scanty documents of this period, and the most polished poets of 
the Carolingian revival composed their Latin verses in a tongue 
nearly as foreign to them as it is to a French schoolboy at the 
present day. At the same time many popular beliefs and super- 
stitions found their way into the official teaching of the Western 
Church, sponsored by the immense authority enjoyed by Gregory 
the Great. 4 Augustine, though aware of its dangers, had already 
sanctioned the cult of relics in its extremest form, 5 and with 
the break-down of communications, uncertain conditions of life, 
and confusion of standards and cultures, a powerful impetus 
was given to rumour and credulity, belief in marvels and demons 
and in the efficacy of magical objects. 

It is not to be supposed that any more rational attitude had 
previously prevailed among the unlettered. There had always 
been more gods than men in the ancient world; State religions 

1 For knowledge of Greek at this time, see M. L. W. Laistner, Thought and 
Letters in Western Europe , A.D. 500-900, pp. 125 ff., 19 ff. (London, 1931). 

2 It is noteworthy that we do not possess a single classical manuscript which can 
be shown to have been copied in Gaul during this century. Cf. S. J. Crawford, 
Anglo-Saxon Influence on Western Cfuristendom, 600-800, p. 81 (Oxford, 1933). 

3 Cf. M. Bonnet, Le Latin de Grtgoire de Tours, p. 86 (Paris, 1890). 

4 A. von Harnack, Dogmengeschichte, iii, pp. 257 ff. (Gth ed. Tubingen, 1922). 

5 Cf. J. Zellinger, Augustin und die Volksfrommigkeit y pp. 548*. (Berlin, 1932). 


and educated syncretism had not destroyed the immemorial 
worships of the countryside. Even the philosophers moved in an 
atmosphere where old customs and ways of thought haunted 
every household, hovering, perhaps, on the verge of folk-lore and 
picturesque fancy half-believed, if no more. Nor did sucE 
tendencies vanish at the close of the Middle Ages; sorcery reached 
perhaps its highest development in the sixteenth, and witch- 
hunting in the seventeenth, centuries. Christianity, however, 
did not succeed in altering the situation in this respect, and just 
as the Roman State had finally given much of her organization 
to the victorious Church, so dying paganism also bequeathed its 
heritage to the medieval mind. Europe, moreover, during these 
centuries was only imperfectly Christianized. Rome and many 
of its senatorial families long remained a stronghold of the 
ancient cults. 1 Upper Italy, Austria, and southern France still 
celebrated the worship of the deities of classical times. Down to 
650, paganism, with its temples and statues, still flourished openly 
in all parts of Gaul, and even after this time it continued its 
activities north of the Seine and in the Rhineland districts as 
late as the eighth or ninth century. In the Mediterranean area, 
Greek gods assumed the thinnest disguise. The healing virtues 
and ritual of local deities and sacred springs were transferred 
almost without change to the appropriate saint, and the heroon, 
the tomb of the pagan demi-god, became in many instances the 
martyreion, the pilgrimage-centre containing the operative relics 
of the Christian martyr. 2 Much of this process was deliberate 
a concession made by the Church to the strength of popular 
feeling, and to the desperate need for some visible source of 
consolation and refuge. Thus Augustine explains that the chang- 
ing of seasonal hero-cults into festivals of saints is a necessary 
yielding to heathen weakness;* sortes Biblicae in Gaul replace 

1 Cf. F. Schneider, Rom wdRomgedanke im Mittelalttr (Munich, 1926). A striking 
example of the continuance of pagan customs at Rome is the Cornomania. From 
876 to the time of Gregory VII, on the Saturday next after Easter, the Prior of the 
Schola Cantorum performed in public a grotesque dance on the Lateran Square, 
wearing a wreath with horns on his head, and swinging in his hand a rattle with 
bells. He would then scatter laurel leaves, with the cry 'laritan, iaritan, iariariasti; 
raphayn, iercoin, iariariasti'. 

2 For the salutary need of caution in tracing such pagan survivals, see H. Dele- 
haye, Les legendes hagiographiques, pp. 140 ff. (3rd ed. Brussels, 19527). 

4U5 T 


pagan divination; the Frankish trial by ordeal is given the validity 
of a decision of God, while in England Mellitus, bishop of London, 
is instructed by Pope Gregory not to suppress the sacrifice of 
oxen c to the devils', but to order his people, in celebration of the 
festival 01 the martyr whose relics were locally honoured, to make 
bowers about their churches, and, feasting together, to 'kill cattle 
unto the praise of God 9 . 1 Often, however, the adoption of such 
practices and ways of thought was an unconscious tendency, due 
to the pagan surroundings of Christianity in earlier centuries, the 
deficiency of knowledge among church officials, even the highest, 
and the adoption of half-understood Christian doctrines into 
lives governed by earlier social systems. 

Certain diversions were consistently opposed by the Church. 
Dancing, closely connected with primitive ritual, threatened at 
one time to invade the Christian liturgy in Egypt, and successive 
councils and preachers in the West, from 589 to 161 7, banned the 
morrises and mummers, with their men-women, maypoles, 
antlered head's, carnivals, and carols. 2 Traditional love-songs 
were also condemned; the glorification of romantic passion and 
of the fierce joys of battle celebrated in Celtic legend and Norse 
saga was forbidden to the Christian, 3 and the German tongue 
itself, the vehicle of pagan ideas, was denounced as the devil's 

Yet paganism lived on throughout the Middle Ages, a tortuous 
underworld of mingled beliefs originating from various periods 
and racial strata, of vegetation-spirits from Italy, Celtic water- 
sprites. Teutonic ogres and fairies, Scandinavian monsters, and 
the diminished forms of gracious Greek divinities. Beneath all 
changes of name and ceremonial, the peasant observed his 
ancient seasonal festivals, and paid his homage to the fertile 
spirits of seed-time and harvest. Tristan, Beowulf, and the heroes 
of the Nibelungenlied remained on the lips of men, 4 and even 
the exploits of Alexander and the old tale of Troy were not 

1 Bede, Hist. Eccl. i. 30. 

* Cf. Dom Gougaud, 'La Danse dans les figlises', Rev. d'hist. eccL xv, 1914. 

3 Northumbrian monks were censured for their attachment to such poems as the 
Song of Beowulf. 

4 For the frequent references to the Beowulf Saga in late medieval sermons, 
cf, G. R. Owst, Literature and Pulpit in Medieval England, p. 1 1 1 (Cambridge, 1933). 


utterly forgotten. Far removed from reality, however, were 
these medieval versions of classical history, fantastic variations 
on themes already distorted in late Roman times. Virgil the 
wonder-working magician, Alexander the hero of a cycle of 
Oriental stories, dream-like as those in the Arabian Nights, are but 
dim reflections of their actual selves. The men of these centuries, 
indeed, saw as through a glass, darkly, the distant figures and 
events of the ancient world, remote from their own conditions as 
medieval Europe is from the present day. Rome itself, to the 
awestruck pilgrim, held no longer the memory of a busy and 
prosperous capital. It was a holy city of shrines and martyrdom, 
but a city also of haunted ruins, of strange legends and happenings 
of a marvellous past, a city where Popes exorcized plague-dealing 
snakes, or bound dragons by solemn incantations in caves under 
the Capitol. 

Yet, though a vivid picture of antiquity may have been even 
more unattainable for the medieval than for the modern mind, 
the civilization of the Roman Empire still moulded the laws, the 
institutions and the forms of thought which governed human 
life in the Middle Ages, and which were destined finally to prevail 
in Europe. The sculptors and architects of Italy and southern 
France gave inspiration to their medieval successors. All human 
wisdom was acknowledged to reside in the ancient authors, and 
the literature of the Augustan age held with a powerful fascina- 
tion even the half-unwilling reader. The Church retained the 
fabric of Roman organization, and the ideal of Imperial unity, 
with its hopes for a common European culture, though shattered 
at the death of Charlemagne, held ultimate promise of revival, 
for it had reared a fortress in France and the surrounding 
countries against which the storm- waves of Viking, Magyar, and 
Saracen were to dash their forces in vain, a fortress which guarded 
within its monastery and castle walls the treasures, spiritual and 
material, snatched so precariously from the wreckage of the 
ancient world. 


The Imperial Machine in the Fourth Century A.D. 


In theory, still elected by senate and army. Actually, the suc- 
cession principle was largely dynastic, since the reigning Emperor 
could indirectly appoint his successor, by naming him Augustus. 


Either sons of senators, who had held the praetorship, an office 
whose main duty now was to pay for the games or public works; or 
else members of the three orders (illustres, spectabiles, clarissimi) , which 
they had entered either in virtue of their offices or as a reward on 
retirement. A few became senators by special grace of the Emperor 


The Consistorium was a development from Hadrian's Consiliwn. It 
now had permanent members (Comites Consistoriani) , including the 
chief officials, was in attendance on the Emperor, and met constantly 
to advise on frontier policy and legislative and administrative prob- 
lems. It also tried cases of treason. 


The most important of the officers attending on the Emperor were: 

(a) The Master of Offices (Magister Qjftciorum}, who controlled a 
number of miscellaneous departments, dealing with appeals, 
petitions, embassies, ceremonies, the State Post, the State 
factories of arms. He also commanded the 'Scholarian' body- 
guards (see below), and the agentes in rebus or secret agents sent 
on delicate missions, and especially used to report on mis- 
conduct of officials in the provinces. 

(b) The Quaestor of the Sacred Palace (Quaestor Sacri Palatii], 
The supreme legal minister, who drafted laws and Imperial 

(c) The Count of the Sacred Largesse (Comes Sacrarum Largitionum) . 
Finance Minister, controlling Treasury officials, mint, cus- 
toms, and all financial machinery of the provinces. The re- 
venue of the Emperor's estates was managed by the Comes 
Rerum Privatarum, who probably, after paying his subordinates, 
handed over the balance to the Count of the Sacred Largesse, 


as did the Praetorian Prefects, who each possessed a treasury 

(d) In practice, an equally important official was the Grand 
Chamberlain (Praepositus Sacri Cubiculi), usually a eunuch, and 
often with great personal, though extra-constitutional, in- 
fluence over the Emperor, who controlled the palace staff, and 
the affairs of the Imperial residences. 


The supreme command was in the hands of Masters of Soldiers 
(magistri militum). In the East there were five Masters of Horse and 
Foot (magistri equitum peditumque), of whom two were stationed in 
Constantinople, in attendance on the Emperor (in praesenti], each 
commanding half of the Palatine guards. The remaining three con- 
trolled respectively the troops of The East, Thrace, and Illyricum. 
All five were co-ordinate. In the West there were two Masters in 
praesenti, stationed in Italy, one of infantry and one of cavalry. The 
Master of Infantry was much the more important, and towards the 
end of the fourth century became supreme commander of all military 
forces in the West under the title of the Master of Both Services 
(magister utriusque militiae). Western policy was largely dictated by 
him, the Emperor becoming frequently a mere puppet. The Eastern 
system of co-ordinate commanders prevented such developments as 
a rule. 

The troops may roughly be divided into: 

(a) Comitatenses (i.e. the mobile field army which formed the Im- 
perial retinue, or comitatus). The main striking force; usually 
accompanied by large bodies of barbarian troops (foederati). 

(b) Limitanei or ripenses. Stationary frontier troops, commanded 
by duces, who were subordinate to the magistri. Inferior in 
quality to the mobile forces. 

(c) Palatini, scholarii, &c. Various regiments of household troops, 
some mainly ornamental, others of considerable military value. 
Some were under the independent command of the Magister 


For purposes of civil administration, the Empire fell into four great 
sections, or prefectures (two in the West, and two in the East), 
governed by four Praetorian Prefects. 

(a) The Prefecture of the Gauls included, as well as Gaul, Britain and 
Spain and the north-west corner of Africa. 


(b) The Prefecture of Italy included, as well as Italy, Switzerland 
and the provinces between Alps and Danube, and also the 
coast-lands of North Africa. 

(c) The Prefecture of Illyricum covered the Balkan peninsula, with 
the exception of Thrace. 

(d) The Prefecture of the Orient comprised Thrace and Egypt, and 
all the Asiatic territory that belonged to the Empire. 

Each prefecture was subdivided into dioceses (seventeen in all) 
ruled by vicars, and each diocese was again split up into provinces, 
whose governors bore various titles (consulares, correctores, praesides). 
In Africa, Asia, and Achaea the old Republican title of proconsul 

The four Prefects controlled (subject to the Emperor) the appoint- 
ment of provincial governors, the administration of both governors 
and vicars, the food and pay of the armies in their prefectures; they 
were supreme judges of appeal, and could issue praetorian edicts on 
matters of detail. The Praetorian Prefects of the East and of Italy 
were the two highest officials in the Empire. The vicars and pro- 
vincial governors possessed judicial and administrative powers and 
supervised tax-collection. None of these officials had any military 
functions. The separation of civil and military authority was one 
of the chief reforms of the Diocletian-Constantine period. 


Rome and Constantinople were at this time the centres of dupli- 
cate, parallel governments, administering the Western and Eastern 
parts of the Roman Empire. The two capital cities and their en- 
virons were outside the jurisdiction of the Praetorian Prefects, and 
subject only to the Prefect of the City (Praefectus Urbi), who was head 
of the Senate and chief criminal judge, and controlled, directly or 
indirectly, the police (vigiles), the aqueducts, the markets, the corn- 
supply, and the trade corporations (collegia). 


(a) Annona. The principal tax, paid in kind (occasionally in 
money) by the whole Empire. The total amount to be raised was 
declared anew each year, by a proclamation of the Emperor (indictio). 
This amount was then divided by the Praetorian Prefects. The land 
was surveyed and assessed in terms of productive value, and the units 
(juga) consequently varied in size according to the fertility and 
character of the soil. One jugum was, theoretically, the portion of 
land sufficient to support one peasant (caput) and his family. 


(b) Periodic Taxes. On the accession of a new emperor and on each 
fifth anniversary of it, huge sums were required for donations to the 
troops. These were raised by: 

(i) Aurum oblaticium, an obligatory 'offering' from the senators. 
(ii) Aurum coronarium, a similar offering from the magistrates (de- 
curiones) of every town, originally made in the form of gold 

(iii) Lustralis collatio ('five-yearly contribution'), a tax on trading 

(c) Collatio glebalis, paid by the senatorial class; a graded property- 
tax, popularly known as the follis, because it was paid in bags 
(follis, a bag of small coins). 

(d) Indirect Taxes, &c. Custom duties, mines, State factories, and 
the profits of the huge Imperial estates provided further revenue. 


(p, 8) (i) 'Money Economy and Natural Economy.* 

The problem of the transition from the 'money' economy of the 
first two centuries A,D. to the 'natural 9 economy of the early Middle 
Ages has recently been studied by G. Mickwitz (Geld und Wirtschaft 
im romischen Reich des 4 Jakrfi. n. Ckr., Helsingfors, 1933). It seems 
probable that even in the fourth century A.D. private, as opposed to 
State, finance had never relinquished its currency basis. Thus the 
inflation of the late third century won no fresh fields for 'natural' 
economy, but merely rendered it rather more prevalent in the 
spheres which it had previously occupied. Even in the Italy of 
Theoderic, little change is observable in the system of public finance; 
the Ostrogothic kingdom is still far from the economic condition of 
the early medieval States of Western Europe (cf. H. Geiss, Geld- und 
naturalwirtschqftliche Erscheinungsformen im staatlicken Aufbau Itdiens 
wakrend der Gotenzeit, Stuttgart, 1931). 

How far the exchange system in the West, during the centuries 
which followed the establishment of the barbarian kingdoms, was 
based on money is an intricate question. Barter and the use of a 
currency medium had always co-existed, and A. Dopsch (Natural- 
und Geldwirtschqft, Vienna, 1930, p. no) rightly condemns the view 
that the Germans destroyed the 'money' economy of late Roman 
times, substituting for it a 'natural* economy more suited to their 
primitive needs. Money, in fact, continued in general use throughout 
Merovingian and Carolingian times (especially in Southern France 
and Italy, and for payments of fines and taxes); but the disorganiza- 
tion of government and trade which followed the break-down of the 
Roman Empire in the West led gradually to the formation of local 
self-sufficient communities, among whom the predominant method 
of exchange was probably direct barter, and the reward for services 
rendered was not monetary. 

(p. 190) (ii) *The Iconoclast Argument. 9 

The Iconoclasts* answer to the doctrinal accusations of their 
opponents was based equally on orthodox Christology. The Divine, 
it was agreed on both sides, could not without blasphemy be repre- 
sented in pictures. Christ had two natures human and divine. A 
claim to represent only the human nature was contrary to the dogma 
of the indivisibility of the two natures, and a lapse into the so-called 
Nestorian heresy. To claim, however, that both natures of Christ 
could be represented in a picture amounted to a denial of the 


distinctness of the two natures, and thus to agreement with the 
opposite, Monophysite, heresy. It was also a form of blasphemy, in 
that it signified a wish to represent the Divine. Thus any representa- 
tion of Christ was impossible, for it contravened the fundamental 
articles of the Christian faith. Cf. G. Ostrogorsky, 'Rom und 
Byzanz im Kampfe um die Bilderverehrung 9 , Seminarium ICondako- 
vianum, vi (Prague, 1933), p. 62. 

(p. 248) (iii) The Threefold Division of Medieval Society.' 

The three social classes are well seen in the personal reflections 
which King Alfred the Great incorporated in his version of Boethius" 
De Consolatione. 'A king's raw material and instruments of rule are a 
well-peopled land, and he must have men of prayer, men of war, and 
men of work.' The approaching dissolution of this form of society, at 
the other end of the Middle Ages, is curiously shown by a passage 
from a sermon exemplum, preserved in a fourteenth-century English 
manuscript (G. R. Owst, Literature and Pulpit in Medieval England, Cam- 
bridge, 1933, p. 553). 'God made the clergy, knights, and labourers, 
but the Devil made the burghers and usurers.' The preacher, dis- 
quieted by the changing order which he vaguely discerns, represents 
the tripartite division of society as a divine dispensation, while the 
growth of trade and commerce, heralding the close of the medieval 
period, is looked on with apprehension and dislike. 

(p. 260) (iv) 'Reason versus Dogma.' 

Subsequent developments are discussed by A. J. Macdonald, 
Authority and Reason in the Early Middle Ages (Oxford, 1933). The 
logical system taught by Boethius, which laid the foundation of the 
Scholastic system, was abused in the centuries which followed, but 
a few keen minds, such as Berengar and John Scotus, were capable of 
employing it with advantage in the rational exposition of Scripture. 
Reason or common sense, Berengar held, must decide whether an 
interpretation of a scriptural passage is to be literal or tropical, or a 
combination of both. Hence, in the phrase hoc est corpus meum the 
words are to be interpreted literally of the bread, and typically or 
metaphorically of the body of Christ. Such views were inacceptable 
to the authorities, and the works of both men were anathematized by 
the medieval church. The Papacy discovered in its claim to decide 
doctrinal issues a powerful weapon in its struggle with the Empire, 
and its successful intervention in the Berengarian dispute marks a 
stage in the establishment of this claim. The definition of eucharistic 
doctrine by Innocent III at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 
completed the victory, and pointed the way to Trent and to the 


Vatican Council of 1870. * While it set up an authority in matters of 
belief independently of patristic or later tradition, it set the seal of 
approval on the principle of tradition and thereby excluded reason 
from the field of dogma' (op. cit., p. 112). 

(p. 261) (v) 'Ireland and the Preservation of Classical Learning.' 

The Celtic aspect of the Northumbrian revival of letters has 
recently attracted attention (cf. L. Gougaud, Christianity in Celtic 
Lands, London, 1932, pp. 1-lv). The Irish monasteries, situated in a 
land always outside the Empire, and thus free from Graeco-Roman 
cults, had less reason than others to fear the pagan associations of 
classical literature. In their wide reading and genuine assimilation 
of the ancient authors, as in their love of certain apocryphal litera- 
ture condemned at Rome, in their native organization and inde- 
pendent outlook, the Irish Christians formed a distinct school of 
thought, and presented a danger to the centralized Papal authority 
which was only eliminated by their defeat at the Council of Whitby 
in 664; but not before they had, with the help of Theodore and 
Hadrian neither of whom belonged to the school of Gregory- 
passed on much of the heritage of ancient learning,* which would 
otherwise have perished, to Anglo-Saxon scholars, and through them 
to Carolingian France. Long before this time the Celtic influence 
had spread over Europe as far as Wurzburg, Salzburg, and Bobbio, 
so that the predominant part in the preservation of classical culture 
in the West during this period may justly be ascribed to the unortho- 
dox Celtic Church. 

(p. 115) (vi) The Three Chapters.' 

The Three Chapters 5 were originally three clauses in an edict 
published by Justinian in 543, in which, with a view to conciliating 
the Monophysites, he condemned certain writings of three fifth- 
century divines whom they accused of Nestorian tendencies. The 
name 'three chapters' was soon transferred from these clauses to the 
writings themselves, and is here used in the latter sense. The Council 
of Chalcedon (451), in which Leo the Great had played a principal 
part, while the Monophysites had suffered defeat, had reinstated the 
theologians in question, and thus a central point of contention 
between Alexandria and the Western Catholics was involved. Fail- 
ing to obtain a result by forcible abduction of the Pope, Justinian 
* n 553 convoked the Second Council of Constantinople, which 
formally gave effect to his wishes by condemning the Three Chapters'. 
Its decisions were violently resisted in the West, but even there it 
was eventually recognized as an Oecumenical Council, equally valid 
with the previous four, by the time of Gregory the Great. 



379 Theodosius I (the Great) 

393 Honorius (in the West) 

395 Arcadius (in the East) 

408 Theodosius II (E.) 

425 Valentinian III (W.) 

450 Marcian (E.) 

455 Maximus, Avitus (W.) 

457 Majorian (W.) 

457 Leo I (E.) 

461 Severus (W.) 

467 Anthemius (W.) 

472 Olybrius (W.) 

473 Glycerius (W.) 

474 Julius Nepos (W.) 
474 Leo II (E.) 

474 Zeno (E.) 

475 Romulus Augustulus (W.) 
491 Anastasius I 

518 Justin I 

527 Justinian 

565 Justin II 

578 Tiberius II 

582 Maurice 

602 Phocas 

610 Heraclius 

641 Constantine III, Heracleonas, 

Cons tans II 

668 Constantine IV (Pogonatus) 
685 Justinian II 
695 Leontius 
698 Tiberius III 
705 Justinian II restored 
711 Philip Bardanes 
713 Anastasius II 

716 Theodosius III 

717 Leo III (the Isaurian) 

740 Constantine V (Copronymus) 

775 Leo IV 

780 Constantine VI 

797 Constantine VI deposed by 


802 Nicephorus I 
811 Michael I 
813 Leo V 


366 Damasus I 
385 Siricius 
399 Anastasius I 
401 Innocent I 

417 Zosimus 

418 Boniface I 

418 (Eulalius, antipope) 

422 Celestine I 

432 Sixtus III 

440 Leo I (the Great) 

461 Hilary 

468 Simplicius 

483 Felix III 

492 Gelasius I 

496 Anastasius II 

498 Symmachus 

498 (Laurence, antipope) 

514 Hormisdas 

523 John I 

526 Felix IV 

530 Boniface II 

530 (Dioscorus, antipope) 

533 John II 

535 Agapetus I 

536 Silverius 

537 Vigilius 
555 Pelagius I 
560 John III 
574 Benedict I 
578 Pelagius II 

590 Gregory I (the Great) 

604 Sabinianus 

607 Boniface III 

607 Boniface IV 

615 Deusdedit 

618 Boniface V 

625 Honorius I 

638 Severinus 

640 John IV 

642 Theodore IV 

649 Martin I 

654 Eugenius I 

657 Vitalian 

672 Adeodatus 

676 Domnus or Don us I 



678 Agatho 708 Constantine 

682 Leo II 7*5 Gregory II 

68s(?) Benedict II 731 Gregory III 

685 John V 741 Zacharias 

685 (?) Conon 752 Stephen II 

687 Sergius I 757 Pa ^ * 

687 (Paschal, antipope) 767 (Constantine, antipope) 

687 (Theodore, antipope) 768 Stephen III 

701 John VI 772 Hadrian I 

705 John VII 795 Leo III 
708 Sisinnius 


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FOR fuller information concerning the sources and secondary authorities on 
this period, the reader should consult volumes i-iv of the Cambridge Medieval 
History (Cambridge, 1911-23), and (for more recent studies) the Annual 
Bulletin of Historical Literature, published for the Historical Association by 
G. Bell and Sons, and the current bibliographies of the Byzantinische eit- 
sckrift, Historische Zeitschrift, Revue d'histoire ecctisiastique, &c. Only a brief 
selection can be given here of works which may be found useful in filling in 
the outline which this book presents. 


BARDENHEWER,O. Gesch.deraltkirchlichenLiteratur,vo\s.iv-v. Freiburg, 1924-32. 
BOISSONADE, P. Le Travail dans V Europe chritienm au moyen age (V e -XV 

siecles). Paris, 1921. (Tr. E. Power, Life and Work in Medieval Europe, 

5th-i5th centuries. London, 1927.) 
BURY, J. B. History of the Later Roman Empire from the death of Theodosius to the 

death of Justinian. 2 vols. London, 1923. 

The Constitution of the Later Roman Empire. Cambridge, 1910. 

Cambridge Medieval History, The, vols. i-iv. Cambridge, 191 1-23. 
CASPAR, E. Geschichte des Papsttums, vols. i, ii. Tubingen, 1930-4. 
DAWSON, C. The Making of Europe. London, 1932. 
DIEHL, C., and MAR^AIS, G. Le Monde oriental de jpj a 1081. (Vol. iii of 

medieval section in Glotz's Histoire Gfae'rale.) Paris, 1936. 
DOPSCH, A. Wirtschaftliche und soziale Grundlagen der europdischen Kulturentwick- 

lung aus der %eit von Caesar bis aufKarl den Grossen. 2 vols. Vienna, 1920. 
DUCHESNE, L. Histoire ancienne del' Eglise. 3 vols., ed. 5. Paris, 1911. (Tr. 

C. Jenkins, Early History of the Christian Church. 3 vols. 1909-24.) 
FINLAY, G. History of Greece. 7 vols. Oxford, 1877. 
FLICHE, A, La Chrttientf mtdifaale, 395-1254 (vol. vii, pt. 2 of Cavaignac's 

Histoire dumonde). Paris, 1929. 
, and MARTIN, V, (edd.). Histoire de I'figlise depuis Us origines jusqu'd 

nos jours. Paris, 1934- . 

GIBBON, IJ. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. Bury. London, 1 909. 
GREGOROVJUS, F. Gesch. der Stadt Rom im Mittelalter. 2 vols. Dresden, 1936, 
HALPHEN, L. Les Barbares (vol. v of series 'Peuples et Civilisations', ed. 

Halphen and Sagnac), Paris, 1926. 
HARNACK, A. Dogmengeschichte, ed. 5. Tubingen, 1914. (Tr. N. Buchanan, 

History of Dogma. 7 vols. London, 1894-9.) 

HARTMANN,L.M. Gesch. Italiensim Mittelalter, vols. i-iv. (Gotha, 1897-1915.) 
HAUTTMANN, M. Die Kunst desfruhen Mittelalters (vol. vi of the Tropylaen- 

Kunstgeschichte'). Berlin, 1929. 
HEFELE, C. J. Conciliengeschichte, vols. i-iii, ed. 2. Freiburg, 1873-90. (Best 

in French, Histoire des Conciles, tr. H. Leclercq, ed. 2. Paris, 1914-.) 
HEYD, W. Histoire du commerce du Levant au moyen dge. 2 vols. Leipzig, 

1885-6. Reimpression, Leipzig, 1923. 
HODGKIN, T. Italy and her Invaders, 8 vols, Oxford, 1892-9. 
KOTSCHKE, R. Allgcmeine Wirtschaftsgeschichte des Mittelalters. Jena, 1924* 


LABRIOLLE, P. de. Histoire de la litterature latine chre'tienne. Paris, 1920 (tr. 

W. Herbert, History and Literature of Christianity from Tertullian to Boethius. 

London, 1924). 

LOT, F. La Fin da monde antique et les debuts du moyen dge (to A.D. 753) (vol. xxxi 

of series 'L'fivolution de THumanite'). Paris, 1927. (Tr. P. and M. 

Leon, The End of the Ancient World and the Beginnings of the Middle Ages. 

London, 1931.) 
LOT, F., PFISTER, C., and GANSHOF, F. L. Les Destinies del* Empire en Occident 

de 395 a 888 (vol. i, medieval section, Glotz's Hist. Gfatrale). Paris, 1936. 
MANITIUS, M. Geschichte der lateinischen Literatur des Mittelalters, Part I. 

Munich, 1511. 

PUECH, A. Histoire de la litterature grecque chretienne. 3 vols. Paris, 1928-30. 
ROSTOVTZEFF, M. Iranians and Greeks in South Russia. Oxford, 1922. 
SCHAUBE, A. Handehgeschichte der romanischen Volher des Mittelmeergebiets bis 

&m Ende der Kreuzzuge. Munich, 1906. 
SCHULTZE, V. Geschichte des Untergangs des griechisch-romischen Heidentums. 

a vols. Jena, 1887. 


CABROL, F., and LECLERCQ., H. Dictiomaire de Farcheologie chr&ienne et de 

liturgie. Paris, 1907-.) 

Encyclopaedia Britannica, ed. n, Cambridge, 1911. 
GERCKE, A., and NORDEN, E. Einleitung in die Altertumswissenschaft, ed. 2. 

Leipzig-Berlin, 1914 (ed. 3, in progress). 

HOOPS, J. Reallexikon der germanischen Alter tumskunde. StrasBurg, 1911-19. 
LUBKER, F, Reallexikon des klassischen Altertums, ed. 8. Leipzig, 1914. 
SANDYS, J. A History of Classical Scholarship from the 6th century B.C. to the end 

of the Middle Ages. Cambridge, 1903. 
WISSOWA, G., and KROLL, W. Pauly's Realencyclopadie der classischen Alter turns- 

wissenschaft. Stuttgart, 1894-. 


Useful small atlases are: F. W. Putzger, Historischer Schul-Atlas (Leipzig, 
many editions), and W. R. Shepherd, Historical Atlas, ed. 7 (London, 1930). 
The following may also be consulted: 

DROYSEN, G. Allgemeiner historischer Handatlas. Bielefeld, 1886. 
LoNGNONj A. Atlas historique de la France. 3 vols. Paris, 1885-9. 
POOLE, R. L. (ed.). Historical Atlas of Modem Europe. Oxford, 1902. 
SCHRADER, F. Atlas de geographic historique. Paris, new ed,, 1907. 


ABBOTT, F. F., and JOHNSON, A. C. Municipal Administration in the Roman 

Empire. Princeton, 1926. 
ALBERTINI, E. UEmpire romain (to A.D. 450) (vol. iv of series Tcuples et 

Civilisations'). Paris, 1929. 

BAYNES, N. H. Constantine the Great and the Christian Church. London, 1931. 
BIDEZ, J. La Vie de Vempereur Julien. Paris, 1930. 
BOISSIER, G. La Fin dupaganisme. 2 vols. Paris, 1891. 
BURY,J. B. The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians. London, 1928. 


CHAPOT, V. Le Monde remain (vol. xxii of series 'L'fi volution de PHumanite'') . 
Paris, 1927. (Tr. E. A. Parker, The Roman World. London, 1928.) 

CHARLESWORTH, M. P. Trade Routes and Commerce of the Roman Empire, ed. 2. 
Cambridge, 1926. 

COLLINGWOOD, R. G. Roman Britain. Oxford, 1932. 

, and MYRES, J. N, L. Roman Britain and the English Settlements. Oxford, 


CUMONT, F. Les Religions orientahs dans lepaganisme romain 9 ed. 4. Paris, 1929. 

DILL, S. Roman Society in the last century of the Western Empire. London, 1898. 

GAUTHIER, E. F. Genseric, roi des Vandales. Paris, 1932. 

GEFFCKEN, J. Ausgang des griechisch-romischen Heidentums. Heidelberg, 1920. 
nischen Themenfassung. Berlin, 1920. 

HIRTH, F. China and the Roman Orient. Munich, 1885. 

HUDSON, G. F. Europe and China. London, 1931. 

JULLIAN, C. Histoire de la Gaule, vols. vii-viii. Paris, 1926. 

De la Gaule d la France: nos origines historiques. Paris, 1922. 

LABRIOLLE, P. DE. La Reaction paienne. Paris, 1934. 

MOMMSEN, T. The Provinces of the Roman Empire, from Caesar to Diocletian. 
Eng. tr., London, 1909. 

NOCK, A. D. Conversion. Oxford, 1933. 

PUEGH, A. S. Jean Chrysostome et les mcBurs de son temps. Paris, 1891. 

REED, J. S. The Municipalities of the Roman Empire. Cambridge, 1913. 

RODENWALDT, G. Die Kunst der Antike (Hellas und Rom) (vol. iii of the 
'Propylaen-Kunstgeschichte'). Berlin, 1927. 

ROSTOVTZEFF, M. The Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire^ ed. 2. 
Oxford, 1926. 

SCHMIDT, L. Geschichte der deutschen Stamme, vols. i-ii. Berlin, 1910-18 (new 
and enlarged ed. of vol. i, 1934). 

SEECK, O. Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt. 6 vols., ed. 3. Berlin , 

STEIN, E. Geschichte des spdtromischen Reiches, vol. i. Vienna, 1928. 

STCVENS, C. E. Sidonius Apollinaris and his Age. Oxford, 1933. 

STRONG, E. La scultura romana. Florence, 1923. 

STUART JONES,. H. The Roman Empire , 29 B.C-A.D. 476. 3rd impression. 
London, 1916. 

TOUTAIN, J. U&onomie antique. Paris, 1927. (Tr. M. R. Dobie, The Econo- 
mic Life of the Ancient World. London, 1930.) 

WARMINGTON, E. H. The Commerce between the Roman Empire and India. Cam- 
bridge, 1928. 


BAVNES, N. H. The Byzantine Empire. London, 1925 (with critical biblio- 

BR^HIER, L. UArt byzantin (in series 'Les Patries de 1 s Art'). Paris, 1924. 
CHAPOT, V. La Frontiere de VEuphrate. Paris, 1907. 
DALTON, O. M. Byzantine Art and Archaeology. London, 1911. 

East Christian Art. Oxford, 1925. 

DIEHL, C. Justinien et la civilisation byzantine au 6* siecle. Paris, 1901. 
UAfrique byzantine (533-709). Paris, 1896. 


DIEHL, Manuel d'art byzantin, 2 vols., ed. 2. Paris, 1925-6. 

DUCHESNE, L. figlises se'pare'es, ed. 2. Paris, 1905. 

DUCHESNE, L. L'figlise au 6* deck. Paris, 1925- 

GASQUET, A. U Empire byzantin et la mowrchie franque. Paris, 1888. 

GELZER, H. Sketch of Byzantine history in Krumbacher, q.v. 

GLitaK, H. Die christliche Kunst des Ostens (vol. viii in series 'Die Kunst des 

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LABOURT,J. Le Christianisme dans I 9 empire perse. Paris, 1904. 
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MILLINGEN, A. VAN. Byzantine Constantinople. London, 1889. 
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WULFF, O. Altchristliche und byzantinische Kunst. Berlin, 1914. 


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BECKER, G. H, Islamstudien. 2 vols. Leipzig, 1924-32. 

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Abbasids, 161 fF. 
Abyssinia, 90, 91, 117? H5- 
Adrianople, battle of, 18, 39, 45, 53. 
Aetius, 52, 58, 59-60. 
Africa, province of: 

frontier, 18. 

Vandals in, 49~5> 74- 

reconquest of, 97100* 

Hcradius sails from, 138. 

Islamic conquest of, 154-5- 

Islamic dynasties, 163. 
Agriculture, 26, 67, 238, 245-7. 
Aix, 87, 237-9* 

Alans, 17, 38, 39, 44, 46, 49 5*> 53- 
Alaric, 15, 16,17, 45-6>58, 65. 
Alaric II, 64, 72, 112. 
Alcuin, i8i y 210, 223, 224, 227, 236, 

Alexandria, 2, 3, 30* 35-6, 8 7> 9> 


Amalasuntha, 72, 101. 
Anastasius, emperor, 23, 36, 69, 77, 83, 

84, 101. 
Anglo-Saxons, 38, 39; invasions, 175, 

179-80; kingdoms, 176-7, 180-1; 

institutions, 180; architecture, 181-2. 
Antioch, 2, 3, 30, 33, 34, 87, 151. 
Aquitaine, i, 30, 39, 47, 62, 194, 199- 

200, 224, 241. 

Arabia, 3, 90-1, 116-17, 122-3, I44-& 
Arcadius, 14, 58, 61. 
Arianism, 33, 34, 44, 61, 71, 73-5, 1 13- 

14, 125, 127, 207, 
Armenia, 18, 62, 88, 121-2, 138, 140, 

A '57, i?2. 

Celtic, 2, 27, 208. 

Merovingian, 67-8, 88, 205. 

Byzantine, 85-9, 100, 191. 

Gothic, 88. 

Iranian, 88-9. 

Islamic, 170-4. 

Romano-British, 180. 

Anglo-Saxon, 181-2, 236. 

Carolingian, 237-8. 

Summary, 252-4. 
Aspar, 6 1-2. 
Ataulf, 15, 46, 55. 
Attila, 51-4, 60. 
Augustine, 13-14, 16, 32, 251, 262, 

Augustine of Canterbury, 134, 180-1, 


Augustus, i, 6, 121. 
Aurelian, 7, 8. 
Ausonius, 30, 31, 33. 
Austrasia, 194-500. 

and Byzantium, 124, 129, 136-7 

I39-4 1 - 

and Lombards, 125. 
and Slavs, 183-7. 
and Franks, 194, 224, 228-9. 

Baghdad, 162-3, 164, 171. 

Bavaria, 39, 194, 203, 218, 224, 228, 

229, 241. 

Bede, 210, 235, 236, 261, 262. 
Belisarius, 21, 97-104, 115, 124. 
Benedict, 105-6. 
Benevento, 126, 127, 212, 214-16, 220, 


Boethius, 71, 78, 136. 262. 
Bohemia, 187. 
Boniface, 201, 209-10, 226. 
Britain, i, 2, 17, 39, 1 75-^2, 208-9. 
Brunhilda, 134, 135, 196-7, 201. 
Bulgarians, 62, 129, 141, 186-7, 1 9*> 
Burgundians : 

on Rhine, 17, 39, 42, 44, 47, 60. 

in Savoy, 63, 70. 

allied with Franks, 72, 75. 

Frankish conquest, 64, 76. 

under Merovings, 193, 194, 196-7. 

independent kingdoms, 241. 
Byzantium, see Constantinople. 

Carolings, 197-202, 217-41. 
Carthage, 5, 50, 99, 138, 155. 
Cassio'iorus, 70, 72, 105-6, 136. 
Celtic art, 2, 27; peoples, 39; agricul- 
ture, 246-7. 

Council of, 36, 115. 

Persians at, 138-40. 

Saracens at, 157. 
Charlemagne, 87, 178, 187, 214, 218; 

in Italy, 220-1 ; coronation, 222-4; 

wars, 224-30; government, 230-2; 

character, 235; court, 237-9; death, 

239; policy, 240-1. 
Charles Martel, 156, 199-201, 209-10, 


Chilperic, 196. 

China, 3, 90, 91, 153, 168, 242, 243. 
Chosroes, 122-3, J 3^> 140-1. 
Chrysostom, 30, 35. 
Claudian, 18, 32. 
Clovis, 49, 63-4, 67, 72, 75-6, 193, 


Codex Justinianus , no-xi. 
collegia, 27-8, 131. 
coloni, 26, 66, 104, 127, 131, 204, 
comitotenses, 79. 

20, 41-2. 



Roman, 1-3, 27-8, 30, 89-92, J 2O, 


Merovingian, 67. 
Persian, 90-1, 120. 
Islamic, 145, 166-9. 
Carolingian, 239. 
summary, 243-5. 

Constantino the Great, 8-9, 87, 132, 
244, 250. Donation of, 206, 219-20, 
223; Arch of, 252-3. 

Constantinople, foundation, 9; growth, 
16; ecclesiastical primacy, 33, 55-6, 
134; council of, 34, 35; anti-German 
crisis, 45, 58, 60- 1 ; description of, 
79-82, 92-45 Avar-Persian siege, 
138-41; Islamic siege, 157, 188. 

Constantius, general, 55, 59. 

Cosmas, 90-1. 

Croats, 1 86. 

curiales, 289. 

Currency, Roman, 4, 8, 25, 92, 245. 

Gyrene, 18, 37. 

Dacia, 38, 44, 183. 

Dagobert, 198. 

Damascus, 2, 3, 139, 151, 160, 167, 171. 

Danube frontier, i, 18, 38, 44, 51-3, 

96, 124, 125, 137, 183-4, 1 86, 198. 
Diocletian, 8, 25-6, 244. 

a> 189. 

trade and agriculture, i, 2, 3, 8, 16, 
26, 27, 167. 

population, 5-6. 

religion, 10, 35-6. 

culture, 6, 27. 

administration, 29, 164. 

monasticism, 36-7. 

Byzantine missions, 117. 

Persian conquest, 139. 

Islamic conquest, 149, 153-4. 

Fatimid conquest, 162, 
Einhard, 235, 238, 239. 
Ephesus, council of, 35. 
Euphrates frontier, i, 6-7, 18, 120-1. 

foederati; 17, 18, 21, 47, 50, 60, 65, 72, 



third century, 5, 7. 

Vandals in, 58. 

provincial council, 59. 

Frankish conquest, 63-4. 

Merovingian, 659. 

6th and 7th century, 193-206. 

Carolingian, 230-41. 
Frankfort, Synod of, 221. 
Franks, 17,41,42. 

on Rhine, 38, 47. 

in Gaul, 39, 63-9. 


raid Italy, 127. 

6th-7th century, 193-206. 

8th century, 224-41. 
Frontiers, Roman, 5-6, 17-19, 38-9, 

1 37, 242. See also Danube, Euphrates, 


Gainas, 60. 

Gaiseric, 15, 49-50, 57, 65, 74. 

Galla Placidia, 46, 55-6, 59. 

Gaul, see France. 

Gepids, 38, 51, 53, 72, 125. 

Germans, 17, 20, 21. 

early Germany, 39-44. 

monarchy, 41, 65, 69, 125, 180, 203, 
212, 231. 

taxation, 65, 203, 230. 

laws, 66, 203, 212, 233-4, 2 49~5 r - 

Arianism, 73-5. 
Greece : 

language, 4, 256-7, 261-2. 

depopulation, 5. 

Greeks in Syria, Egypt, 5. 

Visigoths in, 39, 44, 58. 

Slavs in, 183-4. 
Gregory of Tours, 129, 194, 196, 203, 

205, 262, 
Gregory the Great, 107, 132-6, 197, 

201, 207-9, 251, 261, 264. 

Harun-al-Rashid, 168, 238. 
Henoticon, 36, 115. 
Hcraclius, 115, 138-41, 187. 
Heruls, 38, 53, 72, 125. 
Hippodrome, 79, 80-5. 

55. 58, 59- 

Huns, 38, 44, 50-4, 61, 120, 122, 124, 
1 86, 242. 

Iconoclastic controversy, 188-92, 216, 


Illyricum, 45, 59, 1 16. 
Ireland, 2, 87, 88, 208. 
Irene, empress, 191, 223. 
Isaurians, 61-2; dynasty, 188-92. 
Isidore of Seville, 184. 
Italy, 4, 5. 

Alaric in, 45-6, 58. 

Attila in, 52. 

under Theodcric, 69-73. 

reconquest of, 100-5. 

Byzantine, 105-7, 128-31. 

Lombard, 210-18. 

Franks in, 217-21, 241. 

ierome, 2, 16, 251, 260, 261. 
ohn of Cappadocia, 97, 109. 
ulian, 12, 17, 47, 121. 
ustin I, 77, 78, 83, 84, 95, 122, 


Justin II, 136-7. 
Justinian : 

Part II, passim. 

Nika riot, 83-5. 

religious policy, 93, 112-16. 

character, 95-6. 

Vandal wars, 97-100. 

Gothic wars, 100-5. 

administration, 108-10. 

legislation, 110-12. 

diplomacy, 116-20. 

Persian wars, 122-3. 

death, 124. 

Kadesiya, battle of, 149, 151. 
Kells, Book of, 88, 208. 

Language, 31, 205, 212, 255-7, 262. 
Lazica, 118-19, 122-3. 
Leo the Great, pope; 36, 53, 251. 
Leo the Isaurian, 157, 188-92, 215-16. 
Literature, 30-2, 68, 166, 169-70, 205, 

208, 232-8, 254-8, 262. 
Liutprand, 215-17. 
Lombards, 38, 42, 53. 

in Italy, 105, 125-8, 210-13. 

and Papacy, 201-2, 207, 214-16. 

Prankish conquest of, 217-18. 
Louis the Pious, 239, 241 . 

Macedonia, 18, 44, 184. 

magistri militum, 24, 45, 54, 58-62, 69, 


Mahomet, 7, 146-7, 167. 

Mauriac Plain, battle of, 52, 54, 60. 

Maurice, 134, 137. 

Mecca, 145, 146, 147. 

Medina, 145, 147, 149, 159-60, 163, 164. 

Mercia, 178, 180, 209. 

Merovings, 193-202, 205. 

missi dominid, 227, 232 ff., 240. 

Monasticism, 36-7, 105-6, 208-9. 

Monophysitism, 34-6, 96, 97, 114-15, 

"7> 138* 139- 
Mystery-cults, 10, 258. 
Mysticism, 13-14, 253, 257-60. 

Narses, 21, 104, 126. 
Neoplatonism, 11-12, 259. 
Nestorius, 35; Nestorian missions, 166. 
Neustria, 194-200. 
Nicaea, Council of, 33, 34. 
Nika riot, 83-5. 

Northumbria, 87, 176-7, 180, 181, 209, 

Odoacer, 15, 54-6, 58, 60. 
Oflfa, 1 78, 220. 
Origen, 259-60, 261. 

on Dniester, 38. 

in Italy, 39. 


origin, 44- 
under Huns, 51. 
invasions, 53-6, 62. 
in Italy, 69-73, 75-8, 193. 

Paganism, 10-12, 32, 113, 205, 227, 


2nd-4th centuries, 9-10, 34. 

Council of Chalcedon, 36. 

Theoderic and, 77-8. 

Justinian and, 96, 107, 114-16. 

Lombards and, 126. 

Gregory the Great, 132-6. 

Iconoclasm and, 192. 

Carolings and, 200-2. 

development, 7th-8th centuries, 207- 

Persia, 6, 18, 62. 

influence on Rome, 9, 10, 23-4, 88. 

Justin and Justinian, 91, 117, 118- 


Tiberius and Maurice, 136-7. 

Heraclius, 139-41. 

Islamic conquest, 149, 151-3. 

under Abbasids, 161, 164, 
Phocas, 107, 135, 137-8. 
Pipin I, 197. 
Pipin II, 199-200. 
Pipin III, 200-2, 217-18. 
Plotinus, n. 

Pragmatic Sanction, 104. 
Procopius, 17, 84, 97, 99, 123. 
Provence, i, 18. 

Visigoths in, 62-4, 75. 

Ostrogoths in, 64, 72, 75-6. 

Franks in, 106, 193. 

Moslem raids, 156, 200. 

under Carolings, 233-4, 241. 
Prudentius, 32. 


seat of emperor, 16, 24. 

Ostrogoths besiege, 44, 54-6. 

under Theoderic, 70. 

Belisarius in, 103. 

Byzantine, 104, 106-7, I2 6, 129, 214. 

taken by Lombards, 202, 217. 

bestowed on Papacy, 2 1 7. 
Rhine frontier, i, 17, 38, 39, 47, 52, 

225-6, 242. 
Ricimer, 58, 60. 
Rome, city of, 5, paganism in, 10. 

decline, 15. 

fall of, 46, 58. 

under Theoderic, 70. 

Belisarius in, 103, 115. 

Byzantine, 86, 130, 216. 

Papal, 221, 265. 
Roncesvalles, 229-30. 
Rumanians, 184. 



St. Sophia, 79, 85-6. 
Salonika, 54, 184. 
Salvian, 27, 251. 
Sasanids, 6-7, 118, 122-3, 
Saxon Capitulary, 226-7. 
Saxon shore, 1 7, 179. 
Saxony, 194, 224-8, 241. 
Scandinavia, 2, 39, 44, 168, 187. 

Saxon, 6, 41, 179. 

Gothic, 6. 

Vandal, 15, 49, 62. 

Anglo-Saxon, 175. 

Viking, 181, 187, 236. 
Senate, 21, 24-5, 54, 69. 
Serbs, 186, 192. 
Shiites, x6o-x. 
Sidonius, 37, 42, 68-9, 75. 
Sirmium, 53, 72, 125, 137. 

on Pripet, 38. 

under nuns, 51, 127. 

under Ostrogoths, 53. 

in Balkans, no, 138, 224. 

under Avars, 141, 228, 242. 

expansion, 182-7. 

on Elbe, 228. 
Spain, i, 4, 18. 

Vandals in, 39, 46, 49. 

Visigoths in, 46, 49, 76, 133, 156, 207. 

Justinian and, 106. 

Islamic conquest, 155-6, 162, 166, 


Charlemagne and, 224, 229. 
Spoleto, 126, 127, 212, 214-16, 220, 

Stilicho, 15, 18, 39, 40, 45, 54, 178; 

policy, 58-9, 60, 61. 
Sueves, 17, 46, 49, 53. 
Symbolism, 258-61. 
Symmachus, pagan leader, 31, 32. 
Symmachus, pope, 77, 78. 
Symmachus, senator, 78. 
Synesius, 18, 37. 
Syria, 7, 10. 

language, 6. 

merchants, 2, 3, 9, 245. 

population, 5. 

products, i. 

nationalism, 62. 

Persian raids, no, 1223, r 39' 

Islamic occupation, 1 49-5 1 , 1 60- 1 . 

Tertry, battle of, 199. 

Theoderic the Great, 15, 44, 49, 54-6, 

62, 65, 69-73, 76-7, 101. 
Theoderic Strabo, 54, 62. 
Theodora, empress, 84, 96-7, 114-15, 


Theodore of Studium, 189. 
Theodosius the Great, 10, 14, 18, 32, 

33 39 53> 57> 58, 222. 
Theodulf of Orleans, 232-5, 237, 
Thuringia, 72, 194, 203. 
Tiberius II, 137. 
Totila, 101, 104. 
Tours, battle of, 156, 200. 
Troyes, battle of, 52. 
Trullan Council, 216. 
Turks, 153, 157, 172, 242. 

Ulfilas, 73. 

Umayyads, 160-1, 164, 165-6, 173. 

Valentinian III, 55, 56, 58, 59, 60. 

on Rhine, 17. 

on Danube, 38. 

in Gaul and Spain, 39, 46. 

invasions, 47-50. 

raids on Sicily, 55. 

Theoderic and, 72, 73. 

in Africa, 74. 

Justinian and, 81, 97100. 
Verdun, treaty of, 241. 
Vigilius, 115-16. 
Visigoths : 

on Danube, 38. 

invasions, 44-7, 61. 

in France and Spain, 59, 62, 64, 
75"6, 193-4, 207. 

Islamic conquest of, 156. 
Vougl6, battle of, 64, 72, 75. 

wergild, 66, 180, 202, 204, 234. 
Whitby, Synod of, 209. 
Widukind, 226. 

Yarmuk, battle of, 149, 151. 
Yemen, 90, 91, 117, 122, 145, 167. 

Zeno, emperor, 15, 36, 54, 62, 101,